Derrick Gordon, standout shooting guard for the UMass Minutemen, has announced to both his team and the world that he is gay. He is the first D1 athlete in the major sports to do so while in school.
“Mom says I had gay tendencies growing up. In elementary school, I did ballet. I don’t know why I joined that, but back then I thought it was just fun. The girls would always pick on me because I was the only boy. My mom said we’d go to a football or basketball game, and I’d repeat the stuff the cheerleaders were doing.”
“Back then people didn’t really catch on.”
The next morning, he was headed back to Amherst on a train, full of anxiety about telling his team. As his father drove him to the train station, their light chatter rolled around to their conversation the night before when his father struggled to speak with his son about the revelation.
“Are you sure about all this?” His father asked.
“Are you sure you’re straight?” Gordon replied. The two laughed. Dad hadn’t thought of it that way.
As the train rolled toward Massachusetts, Gordon’s stomach tied in knots thinking about talking with his team, an unexpected message from his father gave him new confidence: “I love you and I’m proud of you. I’ll always be there for you. Everything’s going to be fine.”
There was chatter among his teammates speculating that Gordon may be gay. With that chatter came teasing, presumably in good fun. But the reality is that the teasing nearly drove Gordon away from the game that has defined his life. Now that won’t happen again:
The team responded well. Some of them lamented that Gordon had pulled away from them. It wasn’t their intent: The teasing had hit home in a way that landed wrong with him. In the locker room, guys tease one another for everything from penis size to haircut. Even your mama is fair game. They didn’t know how to talk with Gordon about their assumption that he was gay, so they relied on locker room teasing.
Of course, without that teasing, Gordon wouldn’t have pulled away. But it wasn’t just the teasing. So much of the conversation on the team was about girls. It’s a conversation Gordon has never felt part of. While he acknowledged that all of the perspectives in the room have some truth to them, he’s hopeful that now that he’s out to them he’ll be able to share his real dating experiences with them. It will be a true test for the team.
Coming out of the closet is often a pleasant surprise – for both the person coming out and the people around them. The person coming out often finds out there is support around them they never knew about. They find out there was love and acceptance waiting on them the entire time.
Everybody else gets to know their friend better, and may even have their preconceptions about LGBT people challenged and altered. It’s a beautiful thing, and I’m elated it worked out well for Derrick Gordon. What a brave young (gay) man.