That was certainly the case for Conner Curnick, who worried his Navy buddies would never accept his sexual orientation were the truth to come to light. When it did, he was in tears, and he found acceptance from others as well as within himself.
Curnick tells his story in a moving personal essay he penned for Outsports. Why Outsports? Because he just so happens to be a competitive water polo player and runner, as well.
Curnick says he was heading back to his quarters at a naval base in Pensacola, Fla. after spending the night with a guy he was seeing, when he felt his phone begin to buzz.
It turns out someone had discovered a photograph of him with another guy on the back of his motorcycle. His friends were asking him if he was gay. He decided to tell the truth.
I was alone at the time and in tears, and I decided to come clean — yes, I’m gay, I told them. The reactions started coming in and, to my relief and surprise, they were overwhelmingly positive. While I did lose a few friends, the ones closest to me became even closer, because I no longer had to lie about who I was and for the first time they knew what was really going on in my life.
He reports that his life began to flourish when he started living as an openly gay man, although there was some push back.
This past spring, in combat training before my deployment to Afghanistan, someone found out I was gay, walked up to me and said, “I’m glad I’m not deploying with you, I wouldn’t trust a fag with my life.” This despite the fact I was one of the better marksmen and performers in my class. I use comments like that to fuel my fire to succeed in everything that I do.
He says that homophobic slurs were commonplace while he was enlisted in the Navy Special Warfare Program. Those sentiments kept him in the closet.
When the truth was revealed, Curnick was surprised at the reactions.
I feared I would be rejected by people I once was friends with, terrified that the leadership above me would look at me as less of a man, or that any accomplishment I have will be attributed to me being gay, and not my merit. I was completely and utterly wrong. In fact, some of the most vocally homophobic people ended up being my biggest supporters.
He says he is now a much happier, productive and successful person and that while he still faces discrimination he is working to fight back against those antiquated ideas.
I am currently working with fellow LGBT sailors to start an organization at my base for LGBT service members to promote understanding and ensure equality in the workplace. I hope that in the future, people won’t have to “come out,” but they can simply say this is my boy/girlfriend and be accepted by everyone.