After being encouraged to come out by other LGBT athletes telling their stories, college swimmer Lauren Neidigh is calling on other athletes to take the plunge as well.
In a piece on OutSports, Neidigh talked about her coming to terms with her own sexuality.
“I remember sitting in my room one night declining an invitation to go out with my friends,” she said, recalling a time when she was fearful her crush would be out too and she would have to face the fact she has a crush on a woman. “It was years ago, but I can remember the struggle and lingering resentment toward myself like it was yesterday…In that moment, I felt like nothing and nobody could help me.”
Since more and more athletes have come out to tell their own stories publicly, Neidigh felt she was finally able to do the same.
“I felt motivated to find the same happiness for myself that these other athletes had found since coming out,” she said. “I was able to come out to myself and the world around me, as I felt comfort and strength knowing I was not alone. I knew that doing this was not only liberating for me, but it may also help others the way that visible LGBT athletes helped me.”
Neidigh wrote about how she felt she needed to limit her speech and actions to fit into social norms, and how she felt trapped.
“Our visibility can help show them that there is a whole world outside of that community and a place for them in it,” she said. “Seeing a future in a safe place can make a huge difference in someone’s life.”
In the 2012 Olympic Games, only one percent of the athletes competing were out.
“You may not have realized it yet, but we need your help,” Neidigh said to athletes still in the closet. “Each one of us, even those who haven’t come out yet, is a unique piece of the LGBT sports movement. Being in the closet is like clenching your best self. We need you first-string, because no one else can play your position.”
This summer, Neidigh created awareness with a campaign with Swimming World Magazine and SwimSwam News that featured swimmers from all ages and places with signs that read “No Hate” to show their support of LGBT athletes.
“Visibility can bring out better versions of the world around us and the people in it,” Neidigh said. “At the very least, I can promise you that I will be one of those who will support you.”