As an undergraduate still trying to figure out my identify, I sought kindred spirits on and around campus to connect with. However during that stage of my development I wasn’t necessarily comfortable being “out” per se. Not to mention the only on-campus organization that I knew of at the time just so happened to have “out” in the title.
Most of us have been there before; yearning to be ourselves, yet too nervous to actually leave the closet. Some are strong enough to adapt in their early years while others hold it in until their final breath. The courage needed to come out hits us all at different times in our lives, however for some it may never arrive. Thankfully my coming out story started taking shape during the summer of 2009.
Shortly after coming out to a friend from class, I started checking out a website called Outsports.com. While browsing through the articles, one practically jumped out at me. It was the story of Brian Sims, the first-known openly gay NCAA football captain. His story was particularly intriguing to me because here you have this rugged scholar-athlete, who just happens to be gay as well.
To my surprise, at the end of the article was not only Brian’s website but his personal email as well. So I did what any newly out person would do, I shot him a message. Surprisingly he responded to that and all the other emails I sent over the next few years. Even as his popularity grew and his job title changed from Attorney Brian Sims to Pennsylvania State Representative Brian Sims he still found time to respond to the never-ending emails of his growing list of supporters.
Flash forward to 2012 and a friend of mine who works in the alumni office at Old Dominion University is looking for someone to speak on campus. I knew just the person. So he gave my contact info to the Career Management Center’s Student Coordinator Intern, Matthew French and the rest is history.
Brian Sims came to a campus completely different from what I remember. He came to a campus with considerably more resources for members of the LGBT community; a campus with priority housing for LGBT students.
He spoke to a diverse group of nearly five hundred students, athletes, community members, and allies.
He told his story, he made us laugh, and he made us think.
In all, he left us empowered with the knowledge that our generation is the generation of change.