Jamal Brown, the openly gay track star who recently graduated from prestigious Dartmouth College, shares his coming out story with Outsports. Brown first came to our attention as one of several black openly gay jocks in the Fearless Campus Tour, a photo retrospective of out high school and collegiate athletes by Jeff Sheng. The handsome Ivy League grad writes a poignant essay about being closeted and "arriving at an institution with a long history of homophobia as well as racism."
Gays were visible in campus politics and student life but barely on varsity or club teams. Some lesbian women competed openly, and out all-American lacrosse goalie and a friend of mine, Andrew Goldstein, was a senior my freshman year. Still, as an African American, I had no gay person of color to look up to. That along with the fact that I have feminine mannerisms and don’t always exude a masculine persona made it difficult to be accepted by teammates. In the past, the track team had several out gay athletes on its roster, and some of them quit or were reluctant to embrace the gay athlete identity because of homophobic backlash. I knew that if I came out there was no obligation to work towards inclusion of gay athletes nor serve as a role model for athletes coming to terms with their sexuality. But I knew that the only reason there was even an ounce of potential for me to come out was the bold and courageous acts of the Andrew Goldsteins and Billy Jean Kings who came out before me. I knew that the only way to be comfortable with myself would be to be myself.
One evening after practice, I built up the strength to finally come out to my team. Apprehensive about how I should go about the process, I decided to take advantage of the Internet and declared being interested in men on Facebook. The next day at practice during warm-ups, one of my teammates approached me and said he liked my Facebook updates. Curious if he was referring to my newly stated sexual preference or another random update, I asked him to clarify, and he responded, "J. Brown, you’re OK here. Be yourself. Know that you are in for a long journey, but your team is here for you, man."
Jamal Brown's full essay is at Outsports. After graduation last year, Brown has worked as an activist at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) in Boston. Next month, Jamal Brown will be a part of Out magazine's Out 100. Bravo and congratulations.