By: Dan Woog*/Special for TRT-
For a high school athlete who was so terrified of being gay he contemplated suicide, coming out was huge. But Robert Scott did it – and, within a couple of months, he was blogging nationally about his life.
Welcome to the gay youth world, 2011-style.
At 14, Robert felt cursed by his feelings for guys. He identified as a jock; he played football, basketball and soccer, and ran track and cross country. There was no way, he told himself, an athlete could be gay. For three years he wrestled with his demons.
At 17, he met Ben Newcomer and Brad Usselman through TheGYC.com, a gay teen site. They too were athletes – soccer and track – and though all three lived in different parts of the country, they soon became good friends. Robert, who lives in Memphis, even met Ben at a soccer tournament in North Carolina.
Brad had an idea: starting a blog. There was nothing online specifically for young athletes struggling with their sexuality. He contacted Jim Buzinski, co-founder of the OutSports.com website. Jim understood the importance of the teens’ idea and provided important help, from organization to grammar.
One goal, Brad said, was to “change people’s perceptions that openly gay athletes would be ostracized from their sports team.” Another was to “build a grass-roots movement with my generation” aimed at gaining equality.
Referring to gay athletes, Ben added, “Gay people who fit in shouldn’t feel like they have to just because they can.”
The blog – called “Walk the Road,” referring to young people exploring their sexuality together (http://bradrobertben.wordpress.com) – drew nearly instant feedback. A closeted Mississippi State fraternity member told his own agonizing tale, and concluded: “Many Southerners see the typical gay guy as one who runs around in high heels dressed in makeup. However, I can see from you and also myself, we are further from that image than one can be.”
A college swimmer emailed the three, and they posted his story. He explained that he is still in the closet because he believes others will define him solely by his sexuality, even though that’s only one part of who he is.
That’s exactly the message Robert, Ben and Brad impart. They blog about music, school and their sports teams. They write poetry and upload videos. Sometimes – not always – they post stories about their own experiences as gay teens, or pass along emails that other gay jocks have sent.
Publicity on OutSports led to a surge of interest. Olympians, college athletes and people of all ages – sports fanatics, and those who only wished they could play – contacted the trio.
Gareth Bale – a 22-year-old Welshman who plays for Tottenham Hotspur in the English Premier League, and a rising international soccer star – sent an encouraging word. “His shout-out really boosted our spirits,” says Robert.
Still, when the blog began Robert was not out to his parents. “I was afraid the people around me would judge me if they ever found out,” he recalls. His parents did soon find out – and Robert’s fears subsided. He put his last name on “Walk the Road,” and began a steady coming-out process with friends. The blog and coming out became intertwined.
“Hearing so many enlightening stories inspired me to continue telling people close to me,” Robert says. “I had known so little of all the gay athletes there really were in history,” he continues. “Since creating the blog, my eyes have been opened to successful gay athletes of today and the past.
“I also realize how much our society is progressing. It’s almost scary how much the youth of today really don’t care for discrimination against anyone who is gay. Even one of my teammates knows now, and we’ve become best of friends since he learned.”
Meanwhile, the boys blog on. Last month Brad wrote about the upcoming track season: his first since coming out to his teammates.
Noting that all successful programs are built around supportive athletes, Brad wrote: “Some LGBT athletes feel that their coming out will take away from the team dynamic that has been built. I have heard from some people that this happened to them on their own sports team, even so far as to the team being divided over the issue. I am lucky to say, though, that my team sees past my sexuality.
“They see all of the hard work I am putting in every practice in order to achieve the best that I can. I am happy to say that even though my mind went through the worst possible scenario that could take place hundreds of times before I came out as well as after I came out, it all turned out well…. There is no time limit on when you have to tell people, just do it when you are ready.”
*Dan Woog is a journalist, educator, soccer coach, gay activist, and author of the “Jocks” series of books on gay male athletes. Visit his website at www.danwoog.com. He can be reached care of this publication or at [email protected].