Man Overcomes Homophobia In Locker Room, Then Thrives In Gay Volleyball League.

by Jesse Anderson

I’m Jesse Anderson. I’m from Asheville, North Carolina.

I’ve always been very active. I’ve loved playing soccer and I’ve played all my life. All through middle, high school – middle school, high school and college, I heard homophobic slurs. During middle school, we were in the locker room. It was after a game. One of my teammates came up to us – it was me and a couple of friends – in the locker room and he was referring to an incident where I missed a kick and it was a crucial point in the game.

He said, “You’re a fucking faggot for missing that.” That was – that hurt a lot. It wasn’t easy to take in, it wasn’t easy to deal with at the time. So after hearing it for fifteen or so years, I was done. I couldn’t handle it anymore. I ended up quitting and didn’t participate in any additional sports activities for the better part of four years.

When I went to college, I didn’t join any competitive teams because I still felt that I wouldn’t be accepted. So I ended up joining some intramural groups and it was still fun but it wasn’t as competitive as I would have liked it to be.

So four years later, I was hanging out with a friend. He was one of my first gay friends in Boston. We were sitting there chatting about things and playing video games.

He mentioned, “You should join this gay volleyball league.” I just remember thinking, is this going to be like fifteen years ago? Is this going to be – how is this going to make me feel? Will it be like the locker room incident? Will it be – I don’t know. It was very scary to me.

It took some convincing but he eventually had me go. We went. It was right down the street from where I lived at the time and we went together. We’re walking up the stairs and we set foot in the gym.

The first thing I hear is, “Bitch, you better hit that serve!” I was in shock. I didn’t know what to think but I felt like I actually belonged somewhere. I kept going back consistently. It was great to finally make more gay friends. I didn’t feel as uncomfortable with the issues I had previously because there’s people that are like me around me. It was nerve-wracking because you’re going up against really, really good people and I had no idea what I was doing half the time, but it was great to finally feel accepted on the court and off the court.

I started playing volleyball more competitively and I started going around the country, playing competitive volleyball and I realized that this was going to become something very important to me. So as a result of joining the league, I ended up – I felt renewed confidence. I felt like I had family in the league. It made me want to be honest with everybody around me. I ended up coming out to a lot of friends in the city of Boston at the time as well as my family. And I felt – I felt relieved. I felt like I finally was able to truly be myself, both around them and at volleyball.

I know that there’s more kids out there who’ve had my experience, especially in the South and not just in the South but everywhere, and I want them to know that it’s okay. You just have to find the right group and the right organization to participate in and you’ll find family.

Sharing your story can change someone's life. Interested in learning more?