I'm From Driftwood is a 501(c)(3) non-profit forum for true lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer stories. Earlier this year, founder and Executive Director Nathan Manske and two companions successfully completed a four-month, 50-state Story Tour collecting LGBTQ stories from towns and cities across the country. They're pulling some of the most relevant, important and sometimes just enjoyable stories from their archives and sharing them with HuffPost Gay Voices.
Brian Sims never really had to come out to his college football team as gay. In fact, it was the other way around: his team more came out to him.
My quarterback and I... I think we were walking back to the car to get beer out of the trunk. And out of nowhere, the guy turns around and goes, "Yo, Sims. You gay?" And it completely caught me off guard, and I really quickly said, "Yeah, man, thanks for asking." And we both sort of stood there. It was one of those things where it felt like five minutes; it was probably five seconds. And he says, "Cool, man, thanks for telling me." And we just sort of kept on walking like it hadn't happened. And we got to the car, picked up some beer, walked back.
For the next three months, Brian couldn't go anywhere without one of his teammates stopping him to say, "Hey, man, just wanted to let you know, I heard, and it's really cool with me, I got no problems with that, sorry about anything I might have said."
One day, when running drills on the practice field, Brian's position coach, who definitely hadn't caught wind of Brian being gay, said something that put a serious damper on everyone's mood. Brian explains:
We had all these high school kids down doing some drill. They were down on all fours, spinning in a circle, something that's probably not going to make them better football players, but we needed to kill time, and my position coach, who clearly hadn't heard yet, yells out loud from probably 40 feet away while this kid's down on all fours, "Yeah, this is Sims' favorite drill!" thinking he was just making a dig on me.
While Brian was prepared to let it roll off his back, his teammates weren't so forgiving.
My teammates who were out there and heard it all sort of froze for a second. There's, you know, 50 guys up on this field, probably 300 high-school football players, and everybody just stopped dead in their tracks. And clearly my coach had no idea what was going on. I knew exactly what was going on. And these guys sort of started to converge on him. And I ran up, kind of broke it up; I don't think he had any idea of what was going on. And after practice, I went to go talk to him to sort of explain what was going on, and he walked right past me, didn't say a word.
Brian was terrified of what the outcome of the situation would be. No matter how many times he tried to speak to the coach, he would ignore him. The following morning, when preparing to go back to the practice field, the coach stood up on a table, surrounded by the entire team.
He says, "I need everybody's attention. Yesterday I said something really f***ing stupid. I've spent my career teaching you guys what it means to be teammates, and yesterday you guys had to teach me what it means to be a teammate." And that was it, and that was the end of it. And it was still the sort of defining moment for me. I knew my team would be all right when they had to pull my coaches aside and say, "You better be alright with this, because we all are."
Brian is now running to become Pennsylvania's first openly LGBT legislator.
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Check out a slideshow of openly gay sports stars below.
Thomas's decision to confirm his sexuality while still an active rugby player was praised by LGBT rights advocates as a brave move. Though others have since followed suit, Thomas hoped people who eventually consider his sexuality as irrelevant. "What I choose to do when I close the door at home has nothing to do with what I have achieved in rugby," he told The Guardian. "I'd love for it, in 10 years' time, not to even be an issue in sport, and for people to say: 'So what?'"
The Olympic diver, who took home the gold medal in 2008 in the ten meter platform, revealed his sexuality in an exclusive interview with The Sydney Morning Herald. Mitcham, then 20 years old, credited partner Lachlan with helping him battle depression and emotional burnout in the years before his Olympic triumph.
The Prague-born tennis pro, who came out as bisexual in 1981, is credited with having "expanded the dialogue on issues of gender and sexuality in sports," according to ESPN. "Martina was the first legitimate superstar who literally came out while she was a superstar," Donna Lopiano, executive director of the Women's Sports Foundation, said. "She exploded the barrier by putting it on the table. She basically said this part of my life doesn't have anything to do with me as a tennis player. Judge me for who I am."
Known as much for his colorful fashion sense as his slick moves on the ice, Weir faced intense media scrutiny over his sexual orientation before finally coming out in his recently published memoirs. "With people killing themselves and being scared into the closet, I hope that even just one person can gain strength from my story," Weir said at the time. "A lot of the gays got downright angry about my silence. But pressure is the last thing that would make me want to 'join' a community."
Unfortunately, the tennis pro's 1981 outing was not her choice; she was forced out when her former female lover sued her for palimony and nearly lost all of her commercial endorsements as a result. But her career was far from over, and in 2000, she became the first open lesbian ever to coach an Olympic team.
The Australian hockey champ, who retired this year, came out earlier this week in an emotional YouTube video, The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting. "I regret immensely that I wasn't strong enough as a leader, that I didn't step up when I was playing and share this about myself,'' he is quoted as saying in the video.
Originally from Quebec, the Canadian hockey champ decided to stop hiding her sexual orientation while still a freshman at Harvard University. "If they weren't going to accept me on the team," she told The Seattle Times, "I wasn't going to stay."
In 1995, the Olympic diving hero (who became the first man in 56 years to win two gold medals in diving when he captured the platform and the springboard events in Los Angeles 11 years earlier) shocked fans when he decided to come out as both gay and HIV-positive on The Oprah Winfrey Show. "People who were close to me -- family and friends -- they knew about my sexuality," he said in 2006. "I just did not discuss my personal life, my sexuality with the media. That was my policy."
Formerly of the San Diego Padres, baseball player Billy Bean came out in 1999, five years after he retired. Now, however, he says he has regrets about ending his baseball career after just six seasons. "If I had only told my parents, I probably would have played two or three more years and understood that I could come out a step at a time, not have to do it in front of a microphone," he is quoted by Outsports as saying. "And I was completely misguided. I had no mentor. I think that's where the responsibility comes in for people who have lived that experience, and we take for granted that everybody's adjusted and gets it."
The pro-golfer, who won 13 events during her 21 years, came out in a 2004 New York Times editorial. "You see, my sponsor, Olivia, is one of the world's largest and most respected companies catering to lesbian travelers, and this represents the first time a company like this has sponsored a professional athlete -- a gay professional athlete," Jones wrote. "Inherent in this sponsorship is my coming out. It's a bit of a curiosity, because I've never been in the closet. For more than 25 years, I've been very comfortable with the fact that I'm gay...I have never, until now, felt the need to discuss it in the news media."
The champion rider, who competed in six consecutive Olympics, says he's never had much of a problem with being open about his sexual orientation in the equestrian world. Still, as he he told Outsports, "I did not connect my social life to my work life for many years, and while I never ran away from the issue of my homosexuality, I must admit that I had no real interest in bringing attention to it, especially with the press...what changed everything was a combination of meeting my soul-mate Robert Ross, whom I was so proud to be with that I wanted everyone to know, and the AIDS epidemic which affected so many people dear to me."
The South African-born commissioner of World Team Tennis has also been the partner of Billie Jean King for more than 20 years. She also credits King with encouraging her to pursue her career. "I had an opportunity to hit tennis balls with Billie Jean King when she was in South Africa when I was 11," she said. "She encouraged me to pursue my dream, and I did."
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