A year ago, I nervously boarded a flight from Kennedy airport in New York to Portland, Oregon. I would be attending the LGBT Sports Coalition's Summit hosted by Nike. Over 50 leaders in the LGBT sports world would embrace me and change my life forever. People who I had never met would become my best friends. I returned home, came out to the world and attempted to make a difference in other peoples lives. For so long I looked over my shoulder, but that was no longer necessary.
I remember spending a night at Boxers Sports Bar in New York City. A buddy, who happened to be gay, had beaten me in a fantasy football matchup and drinks was the bet. Glancing at my phone I noticed that I had been tagged on Facebook at the popular gay hangout and panic set in. I was unable to take the post off my wall. I searched for numbers, emails or whatever I could. Eventually I disabled my account, but the damage had been done. Did anyone see that I was hanging at a gay bar? Would someone text me asking me if I was gay? The fear and anxiety was ridiculous. Welcome to the life of a closeted gay male. Mine is just one story, but countless exist.
Shortly before coming out, I spent the weekend in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. We had rented a great house and were spending Memorial Day Weekend together. One night while walking to dinner, I ran across a local athletic director. Now, the group that I was with had been out forever. There was no hiding who they were, my straight buddy would have certainly known my friends were gay. How would I explain this? He would return to New York and tell everyone, "I ran across Nicodemo with a bunch of gay guys!!" We walked by each other and he somehow did not notice me. I breathed a sigh of relief and continued on with my night.
I returned to Portland last week with a very different mission. I know who I am, and so did everyone else. There was no hiding in the back of the room, as others now looked to me for advice. The amount of inspiration at the summit was remarkable. Athletes, coaches, administrators, LGBT leaders, and all levels of sports participants met for three days and discussed ways to help others and to assure that LGBT inclusion is a part of sport. The best part of the summit is the camaraderie that is created. People who have never met, leave as friends for life after sharing emotional stories. In many cases, they are able to find community and be themselves for the first time in their lives. Hugs were given and lots of tears flowed.
My personal transformation over the past year has been remarkable. People tell me they can see relief in my face and that I look healthier. Friends at work say I'm much more fun to be around. I serve on several LGBT Advisory Boards and run conferences to educate people on issues that LGBT athletes face on a daily basis. In the last year, I've been to Boxers dozen of times, tagged myself on Facebook and had no fear. Life is very good.