Here is an excellent story from the Ottawa Citizen about Scott Heggart, a brave young ex-junior league athlete who did the thing that vanishingly few major league athletes have done in any sport: He came out to his team.
Heggart knew he was gay from the 6th grade on, but he was an athlete even then, and suffocated by the incessant homophobic machismo of the locker room. His twin identities as a gay male and athlete seemed irreconcilable; as an adolescent, Heggart flirted with suicide, and sometimes tried to "think himself straight." It didn't work. In the 8th grade, at age 15, Heggart summoned his courage and came out to his family -- first to his older sister, and then to his brother and parents. Coming out to his other family, the one with whom he played hockey in the Lanark-Carleton Minor Hockey League, would be trickier. That would take two more years.
But -- and here's where Heggart's story diverges from that of most gay kids -- as he gathered resolve to come out to his teammates, Heggart began posting anonymous videos to YouTube. The videos weren't purely anonymous -- they showed Heggart's face -- but he never attached a name to them, and it seems nobody in Heggart's athletic circles ever noticed them. Incredibly, he posted a video every day for a year, delving deeply and often movingly into the coming out process, and the unique difficulties faced by a gay athlete. The videos developed a sizeable following: To date, his vids have well over half a million views.
As sometimes happens, Heggart found a boyfriend, and it was this that compelled him to let his teammates know about his orientation. Still, he found he couldn't do it face-to-face. And so he changed his "relationship status" on Facebook from "single" to "in a relationship," posted a picture of himself with his beau, and waited.
And then what happened? How did his teammates -- uber-macho dudes who casually dropped the worse antigay epithets as matter of course -- respond to Heggart's news?
From the Citizen:
By the next morning, there had been no reaction to his status change, so Scott went to school wondering if anyone had noticed, or if he’d been blacklisted while he slept. Friday came and went. So did Saturday and most of Sunday.
Then, on Sunday evening, one of Scott’s best friends from hockey sent him a private message on Facebook: “What you did man, it takes a lot of courage and I’m proud of you. And I’ve been talking to a lot of people and they all say the same thing.”
His inbox filled up with messages from teammates and classmates, every last one expressing respect and support.
One teammate wrote, “If I was in your shoes, I wouldn’t have had the balls to do that.”
Some of Scott’s teammates apologized for previous slurs. A former football teammate apologized “on behalf of everybody” for making him “feel so uncomfortable.”
And so it went.
There's a good bit more to Heggart's story, and it's well worth giving a read over at the Ottawa Citizen. And take a few moments to watch one of Heggart's most moving videos, AFTER THE JUMP, in which he asks his father to advise other dads who might be struggling with their kids' coming out. Seems like a great guy.