High School Athlete Comes Out By Dancing With His Boyfriend At Homecoming
What a wonderful Christmas miracle!
If you are looking for a story with a happy ending, "Gay teen comes out in West Virginia" does not seem like a promising beginning. My own inclination was to worry that it was going to be a bully story - somebody going to emergency, somebody going to jail? But Michael Martin's coming out story was a happy surprise.
Michael is an all-state soccer goalie at Musselman High School in Inwood, West Virginia, so popular he was elected to be on the homecoming court. He is also gay. Michael wrote of his coming out experience for Outsports, recounting how he let his fellow-students know about his orientation by the courageous act of dancing with his boyfriend at homecoming. If Michael's experience is the norm these days, things must be getting better for gay teens. Dare we hope anti-bully campaigns like It Gets Better and NoH8 are working?
From Michael's post for Outsports:
"I am an 18-year-old senior all-state high school soccer goalie for Musselman High School in West Virginia. I also have been on the school's football, tennis and swim teams. And I am openly gay. Growing up in rural West Virginia, it's not the easiest place to be a gay teenager and it took me a long time to come out to myself and others.
Yet there we were, Jem and I, on an October night this fall, slow dancing with each other. We attend schools in different counties and met through friends and I was thrilled that he asked me to his dance so we could be together. He was wearing his gray vest and pink bow tie while I had on my black shirt with a gold tie. We danced to "Love Story" by Taylor Swift, which was a perfect song for my first dance with a guy.
We both started the dance with our female friends who were our "dates." The final song came on and Jem and I danced for a brief time. It was my first school event where I was with another guy, even though we came to the dance separately. I held his hand when we went to get refreshments and when we took breaks from dancing. It was a weird feeling for me, since I had just barely started coming out. I was nervous yet excited. After the dance we went to his house. That is where I asked him to be my boyfriend. I posed the question by writing it on the dry erase board on his wall. He quickly said yes.
My homecoming dance at Musselman -- two weeks after the dance at Jem's school -- was the big moment I revealed being gay to my school. Jem was the date of girl at Musselman and her outside guest for the dance, while I went "alone." The girl knew Jem and I were together. I was on the homecoming court, which was a big honor and something I never thought would happen. Only some people knew about me before the homecoming, so it was a shocker for some seeing me dance with another guy.
Jem and I danced all night to the most popular pop songs. But it was the slow dance that I most remember that night at the school cafeteria -- "Remember When" by Alan Jackson. It was the best night ever. Jem and I got asked a lot if we were together and we said yes. "That is so cute!" some girls said. It made us felt accepted.
Word quickly spread and the following week I sensed that some guys were looking at me differently. My friends even told me people were talking about me in a negative way in different classes. "He is a faggot now," I was told some people said. My friends courageously stood up for me and I am so proud to call them my friends....
The experience of coming out was very rough for me to do but it really took off this fall. When I started to talk with Jem I was comfortable with myself and wasn't ashamed like I was in years past. For me to be happy, though, I needed to come out. I didn't want to hide how I really was any more. I didn't want to live every day with a secret hanging over my head. I told my team before my own parents. My family was not accepting at first but is starting to come around and support me. I just had to keep telling them that I can't change who I am and that I am the same teenager that I was before..."
If you would like to read more of Michael's story, it's available on Outsports and well worth the read. For me, Michael's words tell the tale of more than just one young man's coming out. It's a hopeful signpost on the road to LGBTQ acceptance among the group who can be the most cruel - teenagers. Are the bullies losing?
What a wonderful Christmas miracle!
This has been reposted from The New Civil Rights Movement.