“You’re a fag. You’re a queen. You’re undeserving of love. You’re never going to amount to anything.”
So went the internal monologue of Olympic swimming hopeful Tom Luchsinger as he went about his busy training and academic schedules.
And even when he kept his mind occupied, that voice would inevitably creep back in: “FAGGOT! QUEER!”
An accomplished athlete, Tom had an impressive calling card even though he was barely past 20 years old. 12 ACC Medals, 10 All-American Certificates, three All-American Trophies, and ACC Men’s Swimmer of the Year. And still, that voice chimed in.
“You are still a queen. You are still a fairy!”
But when he won the 200m butterfly national title in 2013, something changed. He’d graduated to “Olympic hopeful” status, and with that came added attention and responsibility. Fans and the media paid closer attention to him, and he was terrified his secret would somehow slip out.
Still, he wondered, “Why would anyone want to take a picture of me? Why would anyone want to film me? I’m nothing but an unaccomplished, closeted queer.”
And after another year of living this double life, something finally clicked.
“For my own personal health, I needed to come out. I needed to accept myself and stop hating myself,” he wrote recently on Outsports.
And so in August 2014, he finally started to reach out for help. First he talked with another gay swimmer who’d come out, then progressed to telling his brother, the first in his family to meet the real Tom. “Twenty minutes after I told him, we were making jokes about it. Nothing changed.”
Next he told his best friend Kate, who responded, “Oh my gosh! Why didn’t you tell me sooner?! I’m so happy for you!”
Then he finally mustered up the strength to tell his parents, and after he broke the news, they asked him, “Are you the same man we raised for the past 23 years?”
“Yes,” he replied, feeling like he’d let them down.
“Then, who cares?” the asked back.
And life on the other side continues to be full of love and support.
“My friendships have gotten stronger because of my self acceptance. My smile is a lot more genuine and surfaces much more frequently. I laugh a lot more. My body has time to recover from a workout because I’m actually an easy-going person. I have found qualities-both physical and emotional-that I like about myself – though that’s still a work in progress. My number of good days far out number my bad days.”
Congrats, Tom. We wish you all the best on the road to Rio.