I have been staring at this page for hours, trying to figure out what parts of my story to tell and what to keep to myself. I will start with this: coming out was the most liberating experience I’ve had in my 25 years of life. I was so scared of it, but have been so much better off since.
I’ve been out to myself since I was 13 years old. If I could talk to my 13-year-old self, I would tell her that she is so beautiful and wonderful. I didn’t think anything different about myself until I started to grow up and hear how people spoke about gayness.
Like it was a disease.
Like it was a mistake.
Like it was something to be ashamed of.
My junior year of high school, I was in the student section at a football game. Our football team was so damn good. The student section was electric and packed – it was where everyone wanted to be. We were crammed together like sardines and emotions started to get fired up as people pushed and shoved their way for some space.
I will never forget the next moment for as long as I live. A senior girl, who I knew, pointed at me and said (excuse my french), “If someone got this fatass dyke out of here, we’d have more room.” My face grew hot with emotion. Burning tears welled in my eyes. I saw red and imagined putting my fist in her face, but decided not to risk my scholarship and instead, left the stands and went home, as if nothing happened. I’m not sure if I ever returned to the student section after that. I, all of a sudden, became truly terrified of people finding out who I was.
I cannot properly describe the relief I felt when I committed to the University of Oregon. I was able to pretend I had never felt anything for a woman. I was able to doctor up stories about my high school “boyfriend.” I was able to wipe the slate clean and be the me that I always felt society made me want to be: a straight woman. I spent three of my collegiate years with a man and I spent both of my grad school years trying to make it work with men. I met some really cool people along the way, but something was missing.
So, I took a leap of faith. I came out to my sister. She was the snow ball for me that ended up creating an avalanche of freedom. When I told her that I wanted to date women, she replied, “All I want is for you to be happy.” So I did, and I started to come out to my close circle of friends. Every one of them replied with unconditional love, support, and comfort.
I came out to my sister. She was the snow ball for me that ended up creating an avalanche of freedom.Gwen Svekis,Athletes Unlimited Softball
Then, I met Taylor and realized that this was someone I didn’t want to hide. I was someone I didn’t want to hide. I felt ready to be authentically me to the world and simultaneously wanted to openly celebrate being with her. I knew I needed to tackle the biggest hurdle yet: my parents. When I came out to my parents, they held me through the phone while I cried tears of relief. They told me they loved me, no matter what, and my dad proceeded to make jokes about getting me only rainbow Christmas presents *classic*. They were perfect for me in that moment.
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To any parents that come across this page of my experiences: love your children. Unconditional love means NO MATTER WHAT. They are beautiful and wonderful, and I guarantee they value your opinions and support more than anyone else’s, even if they say or act otherwise.
I want to also acknowledge my privilege in this space. My friends and family showed me love that I had never experienced. They lifted me up and encouraged me to be ME, not a ¾ version of myself but the full, authentic me. This is not the case for many people who come out. I have very close friends that feel certain they will lose their family forever if they come out. I have friends that HAVE come out and HAVE lost their connection to their family. I have friends that feel physically in danger if they were to come out. I have never experienced any of this, and I will not pretend that I have. I have lost people I thought were my friends, I have had people DM me or comment on my photos and tell me what a shame it is, but I am among the most privileged of the LGBTQ+ community and I know that.
The main message that I want to get across in this piece is how important it is to be kind. To think about what you say before you say it. And above all, to love others, even if you are different or you cannot relate to their experience. To anyone reading this and relating in any way, I want you to know that your story is to be told on your own timeline, not anyone else’s. You are loved, you are welcomed, and you are beautiful and wonderful just the way you are. I am a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community and refuse to live any other way.
Through a career of intersecting paths, Joey Lye found her way to softball
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Black athletes fueled by personal experiences to give back, speak out and effect change
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