I'm Gay | News | Sports

Derek Schell Comes Out, Is First Openly Gay NCAA Division II Basketball Player


In an open letter penned to Outsports, Hillsdale College basketball player Derek Schell, 22, publicly came out yesterday, declaring that his decision to come out has reignited his love for the game he has cherished since childhood. The senior guard's love for basketball has been a constant through his life, often providing solace from an at times isolating world. Throughout his adolescence, Shell writes he was plagued by depression, anxiety, "sleepless nights and undefined sadness." He worked hard to hide those feelings and instead focused on meeting the expectations of his friends and family. However, as Schell matured as an athlete and a person, he grew to believe that satisfying others' expectations did not alleviate any of his own anxieties:

Bball"To be honest, I got good grades. I won a state championship. I dated pretty girls. And yet something still wasn’t right. By that time, I figured meeting those expectations would make me feel more comfortable about who I was and how I fit in. I was sure that my low self-esteem and insecurities about myself would fade away. I always identified primarily as an athlete. Both of my parents were prominent Division II basketball players in Pennsylvania and my sister was a three-sport athlete who eventually played Division I basketball.  Growing up around sports and an athletic family (including my extended family), I had an appreciation of what it meant to live and act like an athlete and I strived to live up to those standards. At the same time, I developed an emotional connection to more creative outlets like music, art, and photography and recognized my attraction to men. Those feelings conflicted with my understanding of being an athlete and I couldn’t figure out how to make those two concepts coexist. Who I was becoming contradicted who I thought I was supposed to become.

Schell, who realized he was gay in Middle School, began to come out to family and friends as a sophomore in College. Just this past month he started coming out to his teammates:

I went to each of them and told them I treated them as brothers, since I have none biologically, and that this is just a part of me they finally deserved to know [...]

They all respected me and recognized that nothing had changed and I was the same teammate and friend that I was before. Despite attending a conservative college, I have been accepted for who I am by those on my team and others close to me. Eventually, I was so tired of living my life in fear. I was mentally exhausted. Instead, I realized that I could be an athlete, be a friend, be a son, be a brother, be an artist, and be gay as well.

After coming out, Schell has proclaimed his "excitement and passion for basketball is at an all-time high." His "antidote to all of life's problems" has returned to him.

Schell concludes his letter by discussing what he takes away from his struggle to accept his sexuality and what he hopes the impact of his story can be for other young people struggling to come to terms with their sexual identity:

Schell2"Sometimes the darkest times in life are only doorways to the best moments of your life, the ones you were meant to experience and live to see. I wanted to do this so that the generations to follow have an example; so that the younger LGBT youth who live afraid of who they are becoming can know they have nothing to fear and they are perfect the way they are. My challenge to you, whoever is reading this, is to be honest with yourself and how you’re feeling. God doesn’t make mistakes. Don’t keep saying you’re fine. You can be who you are and still be an athlete. You can do all the things you want to do and live a beautiful life that you’ve imagined for yourself. Find your peace of mind knowing you are giving your best self to the world. Be brave. Be love. But most of all, be you."

After his letter was posted online, Schell tweeted, "Unbelievably overwhelmed with support, love, and inspiration. Today will be one of the greatest days of my life."

You can read Schell's letter in full HERE.

(Photos via Outsports, Queerty and Twitter)

Feed This post's comment feed


  1. Congratulations Derek! Every time a person comes out, Bryan Fischer has a mini-stroke.
    [In your case, yes, probably that kind. Ew.]

    Posted by: Gigi | Oct 8, 2013 8:41:01 AM

  2. Good for him.

    Posted by: DC Insider | Oct 8, 2013 8:42:39 AM

  3. Is this the same Hillsdale College that Rush Limbaugh is constantly plugging- that wraps itself in the flag and has strong christian affiliations?? If so, it takes a special brand of courage to come out in such a homophobic environment.

    Posted by: Joseph | Oct 8, 2013 8:48:15 AM

  4. Great start to this day. Thank you, Towleroad, for sharing

    Posted by: Gabe | Oct 8, 2013 8:51:22 AM

  5. Beautiful letter, congratulations Derek.

    Posted by: bollox | Oct 8, 2013 9:06:52 AM

  6. Yes, Hillsdale is that school, Joseph. Probably the most conservative college in America. Which makes this story go from inspiring and awesome to......WOW.

    He wants to change the world and change things in regards to the relationship between religion and homosexuality and show that one can be gay and religious and in a conservative community, and be accepted. I wish him the best.

    Posted by: Francis #1 | Oct 8, 2013 9:12:22 AM

  7. Courage...Courage...Courage...and more Courage, that's what you have, Derek Schell. Thanks!

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Oct 8, 2013 9:28:22 AM

  8. Yea, Derek Schell! (((((Truly awesome man))))) Congrats to you and your true supporters at Hillsdale College. The enthusiasm that you have generated is great! May it continue to grow in range and scope like the ripples in a pond . . .

    Posted by: Mike | Oct 8, 2013 9:38:21 AM

  9. Step by step we are watching some big changes. All the best to Derek in his career!

    Posted by: Matt27 | Oct 8, 2013 10:20:08 AM

  10. If I recall correctly, the Division III basketball player who came out earlier in the year also went to a conservative college. Its kind of funny how these players at these conservative schools are coming out but yet we haven't heard of any openly gay players at more liberal and accepting schools.

    Posted by: KT | Oct 8, 2013 10:27:22 AM

  11. This poor white boy. Playing a horrible sport at a horrible college in a horrible state. Rats, from his twitty feed, he seems to have some scripture clogging his holiest of holy holes. I feel no empathy for the religious.

    Posted by: Quicksilver | Oct 8, 2013 11:11:29 AM

  12. Congratulations to you, Derek Schell. You are courageous and you will inspire many others to also find the courage to come out. I pray your life henceforth will be as you want it to be.

    Posted by: jamal49 | Oct 8, 2013 11:37:02 AM

  13. Wow, only 22. Every step small and large counts. Thank you from an old guy for taking this step which will count to help make my life and countless others better...even the snarky trolls.

    Posted by: Dixichuk | Oct 8, 2013 11:39:30 AM

  14. More balls than most of us here combined. You go, Derek.

    Posted by: Robert | Oct 8, 2013 11:44:31 AM

  15. I congratulate him on his courage and wish him well on his life journey living openly and more important, honestly with himself.

    Now I have an expectation that there will be those, both inside the college and outside, that will call for him to be expelled.

    Posted by: RWR | Oct 8, 2013 11:52:34 AM

  16. good for him

    Posted by: Moz's | Oct 8, 2013 12:05:09 PM

  17. Hillsdale? The college where a former president slept with his daughter-in-law? Let's hope they can suffer through the shame of this.

    Posted by: anon | Oct 8, 2013 12:06:33 PM

  18. Made my day. Good luck to you Mr. Schell.

    Posted by: rstbastard | Oct 8, 2013 12:19:24 PM

  19. Whatever about the rest of the world, this is about you Mr. Schell and about your life and your right to be happy with whosoever you love.
    I hope your life will be happier, more relaxed and that you find that by coming out you have allowed yourself to feel all the love that your family and all of the community has for you.

    Posted by: JackFknTwist | Oct 8, 2013 12:57:52 PM

  20. Slowly but sure conservatism is being divorced from heterosexism.

    Posted by: Hagatha | Oct 8, 2013 1:18:58 PM

  21. WOOF!!!!

    Posted by: peterparker | Oct 8, 2013 1:23:55 PM

  22. Bravo! Makes me very hopeful for our young generation.

    Posted by: DW | Oct 8, 2013 1:25:19 PM

  23. Ugh! Who cares? Haaate this guy!

    We don't need stories about these college athletes, especially Mexican-looking ones like this guy. Towleroad needs more stories about the real men, the ones who wear dresses and makeup and call ourselves queer and who consider ourselves part of a common tribe with hermaphrodites.

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Oct 8, 2013 1:50:39 PM

  24. again, a cowardly racist post anti-mexican nonsense in my name. must be tuesday.

    kudos to this man for doing what many a troll will never do - stand up to be counted.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Oct 8, 2013 1:55:10 PM

  25. The above is not Little Kiwi. It was written by some tired azz old b.tch with a stinky azz hole.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Oct 8, 2013 1:56:39 PM

  26. 1 2 »

Post a comment


« «Gay Couple Beaten by Group in Pittsburgh Hate Crime: VIDEO« «