living his truth

Star gymnast Sam Phillips is a team captain & attributes his success to coming out as bisexual

Sam Phillips

Sam Phillips is a star at the University of Nebraska. The out Cornhusker is captain of the men’s gymnastics team and owner of many awards and honors.

And he says it’s all because he can be himself.

In a video recorded for National Coming Out Day, Phillips talks about his personal journey, and how he began to understand his sexual feelings.

For him, the lightbulb went off when he first heard the word “bisexual.”

“I always knew there was a part inside of me that was a little different than the rest, but didn’t really know how to express it,” he said. “I also thought growing up it was either black or white, gay or straight.”

“When I was young, hearing the word ‘bisexual,’ and knowing at that age what it meant, I was like, ‘Oh, there’s a space for me there. That’s where I belong.'”

There’s little doubt that Phillips belongs on the mat. He took home First-Team All-Big Ten honors in 2022 and was a Big 10 high bar bronze medalist the previous year.

In addition, Phillips has been an NCAA Team Finals Competitor and Team Qualifier Competitor. He took home an all-around title in March 2022 as well.

With that kind of resume, it’s little surprise that Phillips is viewed as a team leader. But his enthusiastic and warm personality takes him to another level.

As team captain, Phillips wants everyone to know they belong.

“Inclusivity is huge for me,” he told the Daily Nebraskan this year. “Especially being able to be someone in a space where you are a minority and showing others that you can be yourself.”

Battling injury, Phillips couldn’t compete last season. But he still displayed his value. He knows his voice helps educate others about the queer community, and provide LGBTQ+ athletes with desperately needed representation.

“I am always trying to be a better person and doing more for the community,” Phillips said. “If I’m not going to try and educate others, then who is?”

When Phillips started gymnastics, the California native didn’t see any other people like him on the mat: Black and LGBTQ+.

He wants to be the role model for others that he lacked.

“Seeing others like me would have been huge for me,” Phillips said. “So I do it for the boys behind me who need to see me in these spaces to be comfortable with myself growing up.”

While Phillips has enjoyed plenty of proud moments on the mat, arguably his greatest everlasting accomplishment is starting Nebraska’s ally group for student-athletes. He knows first-hand about the importance of support.

When he came out during his freshman year, all of his teammates had his back.

“I really was blessed with a great story. The whole team at the time was 100% supportive and fine with it and accepting,” he said. “The second I told them I was bisexual in the team meeting, it was the second everything went back to normal.”

It’s a good thing Phillips came out, too. He wouldn’t be where he is today if he were still closeted.

“Being out has helped me in my gymnastics and as a person here at Nebraska,” he said.

“Gymnastics has been a vessel for me all of my life to express who I am, and finally knowing fully and truly who I am, and being allowed to express, allowed my gymnastics to get better. Then I used gymnastics as an art form to express my creativity with masculinity, and just all around made my gymnastics better. It made me a better person, and made me a better competitor.”

Phillips is returning for his fifth year of eligibility this season. We can’t wait to see how far he flies.

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