To this day, I still love playing basketball with my friends, and I will be the first to admit that I take intramural basketball way too seriously here on campus. It’s just the competitive nature in me! When the time came to look at colleges and figure out what I wanted to major in, I knew that sports had to be a part of my future somehow. I did more than play sports growing up, I made it a part of my culture and such a large part of my life, that I could not imagine not having sports as a part of it. Now, I had been set on coming to Marist since my freshman year of high school and I was fortunate enough that they offer a stellar Communications program with a concentration in Sports Communication.
Fortunately, my story worked out in my favor, as I am currently a junior here at Marist majoring in Communications with concentrations in Public Relations & Sports Communication, with a Psychology minor. My freshman year was a huge year for me, as it represented a major transition period in my life. And little did I know, one simple question was going to drastically change my life for the better.
Back in October of 2010, I made the decision to start telling my friends at Marist College that I’m gay. Only knowing them for a couple of months made it a daunting task, but I knew that I would rather let the cat out of the bag sooner rather than later. In this instance, one of my closest friends Chris had managed to turn an awkward situation into a funny one…by asking if I thought he was attractive after coming out to him freshman year. I am being truly honest when I tell you that this was by far the greatest experience I have ever had coming out to a friend. Chris had managed to find a unique way to tell me, “You know what dude? That doesn’t matter to me. Just be yourself.”
A member of the Marist College Men’s Varsity Crew team, Chris is your typical jock except that he’s not typical at all. Nor is Adam Kemp. Or Chuckie Looney, Emma O’Connor, and various athletes on campus that I have since become friends with, all of whom know that I am gay. Since October 2010, I would argue that almost everyone I’ve come into contact with has figured out that I’m gay and, frankly, not one student nor has any student-athlete at Marist treated me differently for it one bit. I’ve truly had a dream experience here at Marist, not having to worry about hiding who I am from anyone. Whether it is the quarterback of the football team, or the center on our men’s basketball team, they openly accept my sexuality. If I was anything but myself, I’m not sure that they’d even like me that much. I would argue that at least one person from every varsity sport here at Marist knows my story.
Coming out to my friends has made my experience as an LGBT ally for equality in sports at Marist much easier. Having the ability to be myself among these athletes has allowed me to become a man. Maybe I’m just really lucky. Maybe this is a sign that society has finally gotten the damn message. Regardless of your sexual orientation, you should be able to be yourself in the world of sports, regardless of the level of competition. The message has been delivered loud and clear and that we will fight for equality because it is a humane right. Quite simply, if I can throw for touchdowns or hit the winning lay-up, it should not be impacted by sexual orientation. I personally am not a varsity athlete here at Marist. I am; however, immersed in the culture of our athletic programs here, and the undergraduate student body of roughly 4,500 students and student-athletes. I am surprised everyday by people who really pay no attention to my sexual orientation.
Attending high school in a small, suburban town, I was not at all the man I am today. Dishonest with others and myself about who I truly was, I let the perception of others define my high school experience. At Marist, I have become the person I have always desired to be. Quite frankly, without the community here at Marist, none of this would have happened. That is what we are—a community of people who accept one another. After all, Chris is attractive and his courage to act as he did in that situation showed that I was going to have experiences better than I could imagine at Marist. Adam Kemp, a member of our Men’s Basketball team, said it best to me one day that he was proud of how far I’ve come in terms of being comfortable with myself and my sexual orientation. Those words meant more to me than I can ever explain. That moment, it hit me—I was going to be okay. Jim Edgehill, a former basketball coach of mine, used to talk about having dreams and goals outside of sports. Every young kid wants to be Larry Bird, or Michael Jordan, David Ortiz, Tom Brady, the list goes on. But not all of us can be. Having dreams and goals, mine being fighting for equality in sports regardless of sexual orientation, has allowed me to come full circle and understand why he focused so much on life outside of playing sports. The impact we make is not on the playing surface, it’s what we do outside of it.
Marist has changed me for the better. If there ever were a statement I would tell anyone about this school, it would be that over and over again. Coming out of high school, I was the exact opposite of the person I am today. It is a true testament to what this college does for a student to make him feel so comfortable and at home with people he met just over a month ago, to tell them something he had not been able to tell anyone else for 18 years. I am amazed daily at how amazing Marist is, and will continue to be amazed for as long as I can predict. When I first set foot on this campus, I had been told by many faculty members here at Marist that this was going to be the best four years of my life, and that what happened to me as a student was entirely up to me. We, as educated college students, have the ability to make good happen for us. Writing a story for Athlete Ally was a big step in my life, and allowed me to share parts of myself with people I had not yet been able too. From top to bottom, my parents, Bob and Norah, and siblings have been my rock throughout my life, even at the times where I pushed them away. They, as parents, raised my three siblings and I the right way, and they are owed the true credit for molding me into this person…no matter how stubborn headed I was and how hard I tried to resist it. For proof just ask my mother how hard I fought with her over a shirt I ended up wearing in my senior picture…that became one of my favorite shirt’s today. My oldest sister Liz is trying to establish herself in the ranks of college basketball as a coach, my second sister Katie has started her young professional career with Citi Year in Boston, and my younger brother Nick has found his niche by joining the football program at my old high school.
With the support of my family, and the Marist community I know that I can accomplish things I never imagined when I was a scared freshman sitting in that first lecture where I was told that I quite literally, had the ability to make good happen for me.
Go Red Foxes!