Closeted Gay College Athlete Learns to Speak Up For Others Following Transformative Pride Experience. “It Makes You A Better Person.”

by Dre'quan Reed

Being that I was in the closet at that time, and I was on the football team, I just knew I couldn’t go and introduce myself to him.

Hi, my name is Dre’Quan Reed. I was born and raised in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

I grew up in an area where it was pretty much a lot of masculinity going around. I had to present myself as masculinity. My mom was very big in Christian, my dad was born in the ’50s, so me being comfortable with myself was… was kind of hard to deal with.

I remember it was my sophomore year in college, and we had a transfer student come in. He was obviously presented his self as femme. He had painted nails, he would wear long hair like weave in his hair. You could get the sense that he was gay, and he fully expressed his self that he was gay. And I would see him throughout the campus. Every time I’d see him, he was by his self.

Part of me always wanted to go introduce myself and just talk and be friendly with him, because I felt that he needed a friend because I had never seen him with anyone. And then the other part of me was like, “Hey Dre, you can’t sit with that guy. People are going to think you’re gay. People are going to wonder things.” So I steered clear from him even though I really wanted to speak… speak with him so much.

Being that I was in the closet at that time, and I was on the football team, I just knew I couldn’t go and introduce myself to him. And it hurt me so much. On the inside, I really… I really felt like a disgusting person, but I couldn’t show it and I had to hide my feelings because I had to keep up this masculinity thing that everyone was used to from me.

That all kind of changed in 2016. It was my junior year, so a year later after that. I started to open up, and I went to my first gay pride in Washington DC. It was really scary at first. Maybe like an hour in, something just clicked and I just looked around at everyone that was around me. I’m just seeing smiles, I’m seeing laughter, I’m seeing so much happiness, and people just free with no judgment. And I’m like, “I need this. This is what I want.” It took me three years after that pride to actually fully come out, but during that three years I was opening up myself, I was opening up to others. And then when I did come out, it was really good.

So when I came out, finally came out, I was scared mainly because of my parents. The only thing that they were mad at is that it took me this long to come out. They showered me with love. They told me nothing would change, nothing didn’t change. They still loved me crazy.

A year or so later, I came across this post on Facebook about Dwyane Wade’s kid coming out as a trans woman, and it kind of sparked a lot of trans… like a lot of transphobic, and a lot of backlash. And I seen all the comments from people around the world, and even the comments from a couple people that I knew growing up. It kind of reminded me of that kid in the cafeteria a couple years prior, and how I felt at this time seeing this post, I had different, way different emotions going through my mind.

At that time I was feeling good about myself. So I came on the post and I actually explained to them how everyone is different. And I kind of… I don’t want to say I changed their mind, because I don’t think I changed their minds. But I kind of influenced them a little bit to be more accepting. Me being able to go on Facebook and express myself publicly for my friends to see and for the world to see, that was a huge step for me because I would have never done that a couple years prior. It actually opened me up even more, because now I’m free. I can do what I want, I can act how I want to act and I can be happy with myself.

I feel as though speaking up for others that are afraid to speak for themself, or that can’t speak for themself, it makes you a better person on the inside, and people from the outside will look at you as a better person. I just want people to be themself, their true self, and be happy on the inside, on the outside. You’re gonna lose people that you love, but whoever loves you, they’re gonna stay and they’re gonna love you. When people see your true self and who you truly are, that makes the love 10 times realer.

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