The coming out story of Washington Wizards center Jason Collins continues to reverberate not only throughout the LGBT community but through the sports world, as well. After reading about Collins yesterday, Tony Jovenitti, a 24-year-old Wisconsin-based sports writer decided to follow his lead and come out publicly as a gay man.
“I’m tired of putting on the charade of being straight,” Jovenitti writes in a first-person essay for OutSports. “I grew up in a very small town that isn’t too accepting of diversity. There was one gay kid and one black kid in my school and both were bullied mercilessly. I didn’t partake in the bullying – I’m the kind of person who stays away from conflict, even when I probably should confront something – but I just stood by and let the jocks tease the only gay person in town who had the guts to be himself. For that, I’m ashamed. I wish I could go back and do it all over. But I can’t. All I can do is offer my apologies.”
Jovenetti also offers an apology to his family and friends for not being honest with them until now.
“If there’s one thing that my parents taught me growing up, it’s that lying is wrong,” he writes. “And I let them down. But I know that they will accept and love me no matter what. They’ve even told me this when we’ve had discussions about homosexuality. I don’t know why I’m so scared to come out to the world.”
He also discuss the challenges of being a closeted gay man in the macho, read: often-homophobic sports world.
“A few people would crack homophobic ‘jokes’ and blurt out gay slurs at the office and in the locker room,” he writes. “I know they didn’t mean it, but that doesn’t make it right. I’m sure they’re reading this now saying, ‘Oh no, I didn’t know he was gay, I wouldn’t have said that!’ It shouldn’t matter if someone’s gay or not; we shouldn’t be using those words. I’m not mad at these people and still consider them my friends, but I just hope they learn from this and stop using hateful words.”