High school’s hard. Being a gay kid in high school is harder. And being a gay athlete in high school? Well, that may just be one of the hardest trials man can endure.
That’s why three high-school students banded together to start their own blog, Walk the Road, to target gay high-school athletes and let them know they’re not alone. The three writers, sophomore Brad Usselman and juniors Benjamin Newcomer and Robert (who chooses not to use his last name because he’s not entirely out of the closet yet), are from three different parts of the country—Georgia, Washington state, and Tennessee, respectively. But in spite of these geographical boundaries, the guys are unified by their love of sports and their confusion about why society deems athletics to be incompatible with homosexuality.
I spoke via Skype with Benjamin and Robert, who play varsity soccer, and via Facebook with Brad, who runs varsity track, about the blog. Benjamin said there are unique challenges that gay athletes need to overcome. He explained:
Confidence is huge in all sports, and it’s hard to imagine yourself being really great without being a “real man,” which, of course, means being straight. … Other than that, sometimes it’s hard to focus with eye candy on the field.
Aside from a few websites, such as Outsports.com, the “young, gay athlete” identity isn’t really being served by online publications. So Brad, Benjamin, and Robert decided to start their own. After meeting online a few years ago and becoming fast friends, the boys launched their publication just before the start of 2011. And while the content’s still being solidified, it shows promise as a resource to help gay teenagers involved with sports connect with others who are experiencing similar obstacles.
Brad has high hopes for the site. He said:
My main goal is for it to evolve into a community that counselors, as well as other people in the world, are able to tell LGBT youth about. It will hopefully become a place where they can begin to accept themselves. This matters to me so much because I don’t want younger generations to go through the internal struggle of being gay that I went through myself.
So far, the blog features the three guys’ own personal reflections on coming out (a process that each of them are currently in different stages of), some insightful poetry, posts about their evolving figures as LGBT advocates, first-person accounts from other gay athletes, and even a video addressed to the guys from Gareth Thomas, an openly gay professional rugby player from Wales.
Although the guys started the blog independently, they’ve been getting some support from Outsports.com. The founder of Outsports.com, Jim Buzinski, has been helping with publicity for Walk the Road, which has gotten press from LGBT-focused blogs and, soon, the Los Angeles Times. The blog’s quickly grown to attract thousands of readers each day.
Work with Walk the Road has only recently begun, but with just under three weeks of official blogging experience under their belts, the guys say they have no plans of stopping. Robert said:
There’s no doubt [I’ll want to continue it]. Since it was released I’ve never felt so driven for something. As one who has felt like I’ve never had a voice in anything, this has changed my mind about not having a voice.
Benjamin seconded the plan.
I’ve always had a lot to say, just no one to say it to. Now I do. I know what it felt like feeling alone. Now I want to contribute to helping someone else who feels alone.
The budding new bloggers have been great friends for upward of two years. But, even through the foundational stages of Walk the Road, they’ve barely ever been in the same room at the same time, unless you count a brief moment and handshake between Robert and Ben a few months ago at a soccer tournament in South Carolina. Now they’re looking forward to planning a post-high-school road trip, where they’ll finally be able to talk sports in person. Of course, if they really have their way, they’ll have a much bigger platform for that first real introduction.
“One of our goals is to all see each other for the first time in person on The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” Brad explained. “I’ve always wanted to dance with her!”