Luke McAvoy, an offensive lineman for the University of Minnesota football team from 2011-2014, was in a difficult spot during the same-sex marriage debate in Minnesota at the time.
While his teammates all had opinions of the issue, McAvoy kept quiet. He hadn’t yet told the team that he’s gay.
Writing on Outsports today, McAvoy said “quiet was always better than saying the wrong thing, something that might have given me away.”
And for good reason, he writes. When he told his mother in his senior year in high school in Illinois, she said, “”Hide it, whatever you do, hide it.”
I was an offensive lineman on a team in the Big Ten, playing the game I loved. What more could I dream of? It was everything I had worked for. I got to spend each day with some great teammates, lifting, practicing and joking around.
Every Friday, a group of student-athletes would go and volunteer at schools around Minneapolis. The kids would go nuts when they saw all the athletes walking down the hall. We would get to read, sing, answer a few questions and occasionally dance with the kids.
Balancing the scales between who I am and the dream that I wanted to live was a constant struggle. Every moment was tainted by questions of, “Is this how I am supposed to feel?” or “Would I feel different if people knew?”
I remember listening to one of Coach Jerry Kill’s post-game speeches, when he spoke about simply enjoying the moments in life, and all I could think about was what I would be feeling or how I would act if I was out at the time. The toll of these thoughts finally broke me after my junior season.
As the new year started in 2014 I forced myself to accept that this was the year that I would finally tell someone again. This would be it. No really, this year was it. I could not go another year living two lives. I had to do it. The night of Feb. 9, 2014, I texted two of my closest teammates saying we had to talk.
It was the day Michael Sam announced he’s gay. And McAvoy knew he had to say something too. So he told two teammates.
He says he wishes he’d done it sooner.
My coming out experience taught me that the fear I grew up with about being gay doesn’t need to exist anymore.
Yes, there is still discrimination against the LGBT community. Yes, I have lost some friends and family members. But I believe times are changing, things are getting better. It is our responsibility to not let fear stop us.
McAvoy is now a teacher in Milwaukee.
Related: The student athlete: Luke McAvoy (Next Impulse Sports)