Columbia University track star Cory Benton pens a thoughtful essay on coming out to his team and coach at Outsports. To his surprise, Benton says the team's response was much better than expected because "[c]oming out was hard for me because of my childhood." Benton feared coming out in high school because of the "additional cultural stigma" of being black and gay.
And there were no role models in sports, he adds.
"There is this stigma that comes with being gay, and an additional cultural stigma attached for being African American and gay, so coming out was not an option for me in high school, although many people already assumed I was gay. I knew no other African-American gay athlete to seek support from, so I made the conscious decision to continue hiding my sexuality and become something I wasn’t. It ate away at me every day, and I felt so uncomfortable with myself. How could I make these everlasting bonds with people while hiding something that is so important to me?"
Out former professional basketball player John Amaechi also talks about the "double prejudice" of being a black gay athlete, vis a vis black male athletes are supposed to be the epitome of masculinity and heterosexuality,
"I was often made fun of for acting 'white' because most of my friends were Caucasian. I was ostracized from the African-American community in my hometown because I never fit in. I did have African-American friends, but most of my friends were white. As I got older, not using Ebonics seemed to have the effect of branding me as “white” and homosexual. I remember I was doing some homework in the library one evening and two people I knew, both African-American, were sitting at the same table a little further down. They were close enough that I could hear their conversation. One asked if they should sit closer to me and hang out; The other responded negatively saying that I was “too gay”. The other person’s jaw dropped and asked how he knew this. He said, 'Just go talk to him. Listen to the way he talks and look at the way he dresses. He’s so white.'"
Benton is a senior and 400 meter sprinter. He was part of the 4x400m relay team that set a new outdoor record at the 2007 NCAA Regional championships, among other events,.according to the Columbia athletics. Sounds like he will go the distance in his chosen field, and, will be a role model to others.
Read the full essay at Outsports.
In related news: GLAD is undertaking a survey on homophobia, bias and transphobia in sports. Read and share your stories.