Friday, November 4, 2016

Coming Out: the challenges for gay athletes

I have spent the better part of my entire life involved with hockey to varying degrees. Playing the game was never going to be a career choice for me because I was simply not good enough.

Growing up, I possessed a combination of attributes that sealed my fate as a hockey player in Canada:

1. I didn't have enough talent.
2. I had no interest in developing a work ethic.

But, I digress.

The world of hockey is ultra competitive, whether it's a teenager looking to advance to junior, to secure a scholarship, to pursue a career in Europe, or to suit up in the National Hockey League.

So, imagine what the experience would be like if you were gay.

Now, I come at this from a bit of a different view point.

During the winter of 2012 - 2013, I underwent cancer treatment for a tumor on my throat. A total of 35 radiation a day for 35 straight days not including weekends. Then there were the three chemotherapy sessions, which required an overnight hospital stay each time.

The medical team treated my stage two cancer aggressively. They felt I was healthy enough to withstand very aggressive treatment. The treatment absolutely kicked the shit out of me and in the end, normal tissue and organs were damaged along the way. Call it "effects of treatment".

But here's the deal...I couldn't have battled through it all without the support of family and friends.

And along the way I encountered a couple of gay people dealing with cancer treatment.

I can assure you that my views changed concerning same sex relationships during this adventure in my personal life.

My respect for gay and lesbian people in relationships grew immensely. There are people dealing with tremendously challenging personal and health related issues these days and if one of their support mechanisms is a special relationship, then all the more power to them. The drive and motivation these relationships can inspire during difficult times is so important.

And so it is that Brock McGillis has "come out". The former Ontario Hockey League goaltender and Canadian University Sports athlete speaks to the challenges, frustration and torment he has experienced, and also how he has grown to be confident enough to tell his story. It's all worth a read by clicking right here.

There are pressures we all deal with everyday. Trying to make ends meet, trying to hit our stride within our careers, trying to grow our families. And in so many ways, the support we provide and the support we are given helps to keep us moving forward.

I think gay athletes are deserving of our respect, just as every other elite athlete deserves our respect.

I also suspect we will begin to hear many, many more stories similar to what Brock McGillis is telling us about. I don't see any of it as bad news.

It's about time for things to change.

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