College Basketball’s First Openly Gay Player Jallen Messersmith Was Raised Mormon, Leads Catholic Team

College basketball

Outsports has a wonderful feature piece about Jallen
Messersmith, the first gay men’s college basketball player to come out while
still playing
. Messersmith, who plays for Benedictine College in Atchison,
Kansas, was raised Mormon, overcame intense bullying in school, and now leads
his Catholic college’s team in blocked shots for this past season. Messersmith
contacted Outsports about telling his coming out story prior to NBA player
Jason Collins declaring he is gay.

College 2“When I came out, there was nobody in my sport I could
[relate to],” Messersmith said about why he agreed to share his story. “I
always wanted to put it out there and I had a great experience with it and I
wanted to show people it could be fine.”

Messersmith goes on to discuss the severe bullying he
faced in adolescence and how he found refuge in a place not usually seen as a
sanctuary for gay teens wrestling with their sexuality: sports.

“The people making fun of me pushed me into basketball
further and made me want to be the best at basketball and get somewhere with
myself," he said. "After my sophomore year, I didn't care what people
thought. I grew stronger because of it and it rolls off my back now."

Above all, Messersmith says self-acceptance is the most
important aspect of living out and proud both on and off the court.

“You've just got to be comfortable with yourself," he
said. "I wasn't very comfortable with myself for a long time and then when
I was, if you put off the confidence and you are 100% comfortable when you tell
someone, they will support you. They can't, as much as they can try, drag you
down. It's all about you. It's what you think. If you are comfortable with
yourself, you can do anything."

Read Messersmith’s full story at Outsports.