Notre Dame Tennis Star Matt Dooley’s Remarkable Journey To Self-Acceptance

dooley3.0_standard_709.0Coming out was no easy swing for 22-year-old Notre Dame tennis star Matt Dooley. But not because he was worried about what his teammates or coach would think.

‘‘It’s internal homophobia,’’ he said. ‘‘Often time it’s more of what you think of yourself.’’

But for Dooley it’s been an inspiring journey from his attempted suicide a year ago to where he is today.

“That day I wanted nothing more than to escape the anguish of coming out to my family, my friends, and, in a way, myself.  Death was better than accepting – or revealing – that I was gay,” he recently wrote in a first-person piece for Outsports.

For nearly seven weeks to follow he isolated himself from the world, paralyzed by fear — fear of his true self, of his future and of how he would fit into the world. His Catholic church-going upbringing and military family (not to mention his attendance at the fairly conservative Christian Notre Dame) confused matters even more.

But he had a breakthrough when he was finally able to reach out to those around him, and it was their support and love — from family and close friends — that began to shift his own sense of self.

“[I’ve] learned to value myself and accept my sexuality as something that’s neither good nor evil, but is just an essential part of who I am. I’ve learned to respect myself and expect it from others. I have learned to trust again and, maybe most importantly, I’ve realized that I am not alone. There are others just like me, combatting the same fear of abandonment and worthlessness every single day.”

ND vs MSUHe was finally ready to tell his other family — his teammates.

“Every single member of the team and coaching staff was extremely supportive, many echoing gratitude for my honesty and, in a way, bringing the team closer together. That day reaffirmed my strong belief that we, the athletes of Notre Dame, are truly a brotherhood.”

It goes without saying, but we love hearing stories like Matt’s, and commend him for putting his personal struggles out there for public consumption.

Because just like he said, there are others out there in his shoes, battling the same demons he finally conquered. And while we as proud gay people can be moved and inspired by his story, for those still struggling to come to terms with their sexuality — especially in athletics — Matt’s and other athletes’ stories of acceptance can truly be life changing.

Cheers, Matt!

Related stories:

College Swimmer Parker Camp Told Everyone He’s Gay. The Reaction He Got Will Inspire You

College Baseball Star Matt Kaplan Comes Out To The Fury Of…Nobody

Michael Sam, NFL Draft Prospect, Comes Out As Gay Because He Wants To Own His Truth

Jason Collins Is Standing On The Shoulders Of 8 Out Pro Team Sports Athletes


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  • hudson

    wow! times are changing fast. congratulations on winning the battle matt. i know you’re helping others already. thank- you

  • Niall

    Hope he makes it to the ATP someday

  • dougmc92

    here’s hoping he makes it to the pros- not one male tennis player has EVER come out- active or retired….sad that football will beat men’s tennis to the punch

  • Red_Dragon_888

    Blue Skies are shining on me, nothing but blue Skies that I see…. An I see Blue Skies shining on you too Hey there Mr. Blue Skies.

  • pscheck2

    It is interesting (to me at least) that part of his angst was directed at himself. I think this self-loathing at being gay is a major factor in a gay person life in accepting themselves for who they are and nothing is going to change this fact. I believe that this denial of who they are, is the main reason so many gay people resist ‘coming out’. However, I am not suggesting that all of these celebs whether in sports or the entertainment field, should break out of their closets and wave the ‘rainbow’ flag! Money, loss of the love of loved ones, peer pressures and career choices also loom large as deterrents in coming out. I suppose the determining factor, whether or not they come ‘out’ should be based on what they have to loose or to gain by doing so, and, of course, their own personal happiness.

  • jpcflyer

    It’s amazing to me that those self-annointed “religious” institutions are still in business!

  • mezzacanadese

    This is a very inspiring story. I am so glad that Matt was able to overcome his self-hatred and love himself for who he is. The only thing that should matter in sports is a person’s athletic ability.

  • SteveDenver

    So glad to read that he survived tragedy and has learned to accept himself. Hopefully he is prepared for Notre Dame and the Catholic church to take a big wet shit on him whenever possible.

    Time for him to be loving himself regardless of what those institutions and their adherents throw at him.

  • dougmc92

    @pscheck2: I never hated myself for being gay- I just hated the bullies and anti gay pundits for being assholes about it!

  • connor larkin

    Maybe just maybe there is still hope for the cruel RCC even though such ‘stars’ as Robert Mugabe, Newt Gingrich serial divorced and philanderer), fat cat Cardinals, JP 2, Rep. Lyin’ Ryan, Santorum, Boehner are the accepted standard bearers for the Republican/RW branch of the Evil One.

  • connor larkin


    And character!

  • jasentylar

    I know what he means. As an African American male, I was the youngest of four boys and three girls. My mother was a Jehovah’s Witness. I knew I was gay when I was 9. Puberty didn’t help. I knew it as a sin. I became depressed. I went to a therapist when I was 13 to help with the depression. I reluctantly admitted my sexuality to her. She told my mother who told the rest of the family. I was told by my siblings that “this gay shit was not gonna be tolerated”. So, I denied it. Said that my therapist had misconstrued what I had told her. I went on pretending to be straight throughout my teens so not to cause any drama for myself or the family. Even though most people that met me seemed to be able to discern that I was gay. When I was 18, I wasn’t concerned anymore by what my siblings thought. It was more or less about my spiritual being. I tried the “pray the gay away” approach. Tried every denomination under the sun. In my mid twenties, I realized that I am who I am and I won’t feel bad about that. I’ve come to terms with my sexuality and am happier for it.

  • Dakotahgeo

    These continuing stories about “coming out” continue to amaze me and warm my heart! Blessings and peace to these people, their families and friends! Pastor Dak!

  • Polaro

    Wow, great story and no snarky comments. I’m encouraged.

Comments are closed.