In an open letter to OutSports, 22-year-old Hillsdale College basketball player Derek Schell has come out as gay, becoming the first openly gay NCAA Division II basketball player:
"Since I can remember, the fear of being different led me to act differently in separate aspects of life. I found my escape in the gym, losing myself in training for and learning the sport I love. I excelled in the classroom, studying and using my creativity to draw attention to my scholastic identity rather than personal characteristics.
Aside from that I was silent, keeping my emotions -- and my trust -- to myself, analyzing why I did not fit into my world the way I wanted to. From middle school to high school, confusion about where and how I belonged led to depression and anxiety. I prayed I would see the light and all of it would just disappear, but the sleepless nights and undefined sadness had control.
I hid these feelings from everyone close to me and "I’m fine" became my personal motto. As a star athlete and a successful student, I held a high social rank at a prestigious Catholic high school. For most 17-year-olds, that is a dream come true. For me, it was a nightmare. I became part of a group of people from whom certain things were expected, including being honor roll students and varsity athletes. My friends, my parents, my sister, my teachers -- everyone expected me to be an all-star, to help lead the basketball team to a state championship and to date a pretty girl. I wanted people to accept me and to embrace me, so I let those expectations take control. I hid who I was so that I wouldn't let other people down. It was much later that I realized that the problem was not that I didn't fit into my world the way that I wanted to. The problem was that my world didn't fit who I was. It fit the guy I was trying to be, but it didn't fit Derek."
Derek, who says he knew he was gay when he was in middle school, slowly began coming out to his family and his friends as a sophomore in College, but it was only in the last month that he came 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.”
Derek finished his letter with this:
"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."
Welcome out, Derek, and thanks for seeing that, in coming out, you’ve opened the door for others to follow you through.
And, naturally, as we like to do here at HOMO HQ, we’ll be sending you a copy of The Gay Agenda—containing just the one word: ‘equality—and the obligatory Coming Out Toaster Oven.
Welcome out, Derek.