An openly gay jock? Yes, it’s possible.

Today, I read about a young gay athlete from Ottawa named Scott Heggart, and have just watched some of his many YouTube videos detailing how he came out to his friends and family. I am really impressed by how articulate he is, especially at such a young age. He started making his video journal when he was 15, and he’s now 19.

I’m also impressed by how brave he is. As an athlete who plays aggressive team sports like hockey, he must have felt immense social pressure (whether explicit or implicit) to suppress his feelings and try to be straight. He seems like a regular, quite masculine teenager (the kind that no one would ever suspect of being gay), so he could have probably coasted for years and years without ever needing to tell anyone. No one would have blamed him if he had chosen to wait until after college, or after he moved out of his parent’s house, or until after he relocated to a bigger, more gay-friendly city. But in choosing to be open about his sexuality at such a young, vulnerable age, he’s done something extraordinary, and will no doubt inspire others.

When I was 15—which feels like a million years ago—I went to a high school for the performing arts in a suburb of gay-friendly Toronto. I was feminine and soft-spoken and I definitely didn’t play team sports. My parents weren’t homophobic, neither were my friends (all girls, of course). I had no reason not to come out, right? I had been teased about being gay since grade 4 (often mercilessly), and, in a sense, was outed before I could even really come to terms with being gay myself. Everyone who met me seemed to sense it. But I wasn’t ready or able to articulate it for myself. I felt so incredibly ashamed, and couldn’t bare to utter the words. I never wanted to commit suicide (as Scott has suggested he had), but I imagined a life devoid of a meaningful male relationship—I thought I would be too afraid to ever call anyone my boyfriend, and definitely too sheepish to ever bring him home.

I started to come out in stages after I turned 20. I lied to a friend about being gay, not realizing that she had feelings for me. One night she tried to kiss me and I felt so ashamed for leading her on that I decided to come clean. At first I just told my very close friends. Eventually, after I turned 21 and was in a serious relationship (with the person I’m still with today), I told my family. No one cared (because, as I said, they all basically knew already). But even to this day I still choke on the admission sometimes. Especially when I’m meeting someone new, or I’m in a work situation. I find it difficult to face the judgement. That’s why I find Scott Heggart so impressive. He seems so willing to take on the criticism.

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