Former University of Minnesota football player Luke McAvoy begins retelling his coming out experience as all great stories start: in a locker room shower with eleven college athletes.
But what sounds like the opening to an adult film could not have been more of the opposite. McAvoy, a closeted offensive lineman, was having something of a mild internal panic attack as he listened to his sudsy teammates discuss, of all things, the merits of same-sex marriage.
In his head, the words “I AM GAY, HOW HAVE YOU NOT FOUND OUT?” bombarded his thoughts, but he chose to stay silent, not draw attention. He was used to doing that.
McAvoy’s twin brother was on the same team at U of M, and even he had no idea. In fact, Luke had only ever said the words “I’m gay” out loud to one other person in his life up until that point, his mother. It was his senior year of high school, and she advised him, “Hide it, whatever you do, hide it.”
And while heeding her advice allowed him to sail through his senior year storm-free, the internal pressure was building and needed to pop.
He decided it was now or never. The same week Michael Sam came out and made national headlines, McAvoy drove with two teammates and broke his big news.
He braced for the worst.
“I expected them to disown me. None of that happened. Instead, I heard, ‘that takes balls, man’ and ‘I am proud of you,'” he writes on OutSports.
The rest of the team, for the most part, had the same accepting attitude, and the overwhelming positivity made up for the the small pockets of ignorance.
More importantly, McAvoy’s brother embraced the news.
So what has he taken away from the experience?
“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.
“Because of all that I have been through, ridding myself of my own fear, I have become stronger. I have learned to accept myself and build confidence in who I truly am. I came out to my family to love and support. The vast majority of my friends accept me. I am blessed to have them in my life.”