Wrestling is serious business at Don Bosco. So is coming out to your coach, especially when he’s also your dad.
Don Bosco Catholic High School (Iowa) is serious about their wrestling. Over the last two decades they’ve won eight state dual championships and were the runners-up four more times. But it was one senior’s moves off the mat that have caused a stir recently.
There had been rumors quietly circulating for years about Cole Fox being gay, and he would always confirm them when asked directly. But there remained one hurdle of coming out that posed especially challenging — his father Ray, who also happens to be the assistant wrestling coach at Don Bosco.
Cole had ample reason to be anxious. He’d heard his dad throw around homophobic language, at school and at home. “He had always made homophobic comments,” Cole told OutSports, “and I could tell that the comments even made my mom uncomfortable at times.”
In a letter secretly secured in Ray’s jacket pocket before he left on a three-day trip, Cole shared his truth with his dad.
It read in part:
“Any anger, humiliation, sadness, happiness or whatever you’re feeling is completely valid. As far as I know, you have no ties to anyone LGBTQ. I just want you to know that it took me nearly 17 years to accept me. I’m going to give you time and space. You don’t have to talk about it. You can bring it up as much as you wish. You can talk to mom or April. You can completely disregard this letter. I will still love you regardless of what you think or what you do.”
Later at school, Cole’s phone buzzed with a text from Ray. He had to leave class to open it, terrified of what it might say.
He read the words, “You are still a great son and I am proud of you,” and knew everything was going to be alright.
For his part, Ray was reportedly disappointed in himself that he created an atmosphere for his son that made him think he’d be loved any less if he were gay, and has been actively trying to show support for Cole.
Cole has since received the Matthew Shepard Scholarship, and the award offers his Catholic high school the chance to make a statement to LGBT students that there is nothing wrong with who they are.
“A student from my school received the scholarship 10 years ago,” Cole said, “and the feedback from the community 10 years ago was unacceptable. The school did not present the award and did not acknowledge the student’s accomplishment. This is a chance for Don Bosco to show its progress over the last 10 years. The way my family and community have reacted so far is a great sign.”
Go here for more about Cole Fox’s story.
Originally published at Queerty.com.