When people think of competitive athletes who identify as LGBTQ, many imagine that finding support amongst fellow teammates would be the hardest part of being the only gay team member.
For Pride Foundation fundholders Jordan Goldwarg and Sam McVeety, however, it was more than that—not only did they feel different from their teammates, they also felt different from other LGBTQ people.
Experiencing remoteness from both communities, the two explained that “it ultimately felt very isolating to know that we were some of the only people ‘like us’ that we knew of.”
Jordan, a cross country runner and skier, and Sam, a rower, met in Boston during graduate school and moved to Seattle five years ago—they have been involved with Pride Foundation as volunteer scholarship reviewers ever since.
Just days after their sixth anniversary, I sat down to talk with Jordan and Sam about their experiences as LGBTQ athletes and about their newly-established scholarship fund at Pride Foundation, The Varsity Athletics Scholarship.
Though both Jordan and Sam’s coaches and teammates were extremely supportive and accepting of their identities, they both remember having intense fear around coming out: “Even though I was pretty confident that people were going to be supportive, the sports world has a reputation of being homophobic and less accepting than other venues. That contributed to staying closeted for as long as I did,” Jordan explained.
The two reflected on their fellow athletes as much more than just teammates—they were their primary friend circles and felt like family.
Sam explained, “I liked my team, and I didn’t want to mess that up. It was scary to disrupt that equilibrium, but I needed to be honest and bring my whole self to practice.”
With few gay athlete role models around them, they couldn’t be sure of how this news would affect their relationships with their teammates. That is a large part of why Jordan and Sam continue to act as out role models—Jordan as a ski team coach and Sam as a member of a crew team—within the Seattle athletic community.
It is also the main reason they have established this scholarship—to provide acceptance and respect for student athletes in similar situations, especially ones who may not share the same experience of openness and support upon coming out to teammates.
Having found one another, they no longer face the isolation they once did as closeted competitive athletes in college. Yet what that felt like continues to stay with them.
As a result, they’re sending an important message to LGBTQ student athletes throughout the Northwest: “Simply by being an out athlete, you’re stepping up as a leader, advancing equality, and serving as a role model. Over the years, I’ve lost track of the number of people who have called and thanked me for being out and visible as a student athlete. Now we want to do the same for these scholars—thank them.”
Katelen Kellogg is Pride Foundation’s Community Engagement Manager. Email Katelen.