When “awkward” is the first adjective that comes to mind when recounting a coming out story, you know we’re headed in the right direction — just think of all the alternative, less desirable descriptors out there.
But that’s the general gist of 18-year-old freshman college swimmer Ricardo Vazquez’s journey towards authentic living, and it’s equal parts goofy, endearing and inspiring.
Writing for OutSports, Vazquez takes a — yes, awkward — trip down memory lane:
Coming out couldn’t have been more awkward for me. The summer before my senior year of high school in Virginia, I was with my best friend, Katie Fitzjarrald, at Kohl’s. I jokingly prodded her with my elbow and asked, “Do you think that guy is cute?” as I pointed towards an employee who was walking by us. “Yeah, you should go get his number,” she replied.
The levity of the situation soon gave way to a familiar panic — did he reveal too much?! At this point Ricardo still hadn’t come out to anyone. He hadn’t even fully come out to himself.
Ricardo carved out his place in the swimming pool throughout high school, quickly rising to the top of the team ranks, but he was constantly having to deflect about who he really was.
I was constantly bombarded with the question and was even labeled as a “metrosexual” because of the way I dressed. I grew conscious that I was noticing guys more than I did girls. I started questioning myself, and for a period of time I told myself I was bisexual. I still believed I liked girls and I refused to allow myself to “be” gay. I simply thought that guys were nice to look at, but I’d never date them.
That all changed, as it has for countless others before him, with a spark from another boy.
Due to a series of rather curious events, I ended up spending the weekend with my best friend and swimmate, Brad Allison, for a swim meet. The Friday before we left for the meet, Brad had taken me to a football game for his school. At the game, I met a swimmer whom I’d often seen at meets, but we didn’t know each other personally. We talked for most of the game and before I left we exchanged numbers. Talking with him solidified the answer that I had been struggling with for so long: I was gay.
Once the first wave of coming out to his close friends and family was behind him, that familiar euphoria set in, and for the first time, Ricardo was able to truly be himself.
And it wasn’t long before he noticed his decision had the power to change not only his own life, but also the people around him.
Without even realizing it, by coming out I had helped others who were in the same boat. This past summer I had received a message from a mom of the girls on the swim team: “You are BEAUTIFUL inside & out!!! Thank you for coming out & being so brave. You have helped [my daughter] more than you will ever know.” From that day on, I realized that coming out wasn’t something that affected just me, but everyone around me as well.
Ricardo hopes his message can spread even further to help others struggling to be who they truly are.
We wish him the best!
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