A Wisconsin-based sports writer came out after NBA player Jason Collins became the first openly gay athlete in major American sport this week. Similar to Collins’ first-person essay, Tony Jovenitti wrote his coming out story for OutSports.
“I’m gay. There, I said it. Well, I didn’t say it. I wrote it,” wrote the 24-year-old writer.
“I was overjoyed to see Jason Collins invite us to know the real Jason Collins … The thing I admired most about Collins’ story is that he came out in his own words, by writing his own story,” he continued.
In his essay, Jovenitti talked about his venture into writing when he was a college junior writing on music, news and sports. Through his journey, he apologized to his family and his closest friends for keeping the secret.
“I’m tired of putting on the charade of being straight. I grew up in a very small town that isn’t too accepting of diversity,” Jovenetti said.
“There was one gay kid and one black kid in my school and both were bullied mercilessly. I didn’t partake in the bullying – I’m the kind of person who stays away from conflict, even when I probably should confront something – but I just stood by and let the jocks tease the only gay person in town who had the guts to be himself. For that, I’m ashamed. I wish I could go back and do it all over. But I can’t. All I can do is offer my apologies.”
He also discussed the difficulty of being gay in the sports world.
“Yes, being a closeted writer in the macho world of sports was difficult. It was tough to keep my guard up the whole time,” Jovenitti wrote.
“But I’m professional. I was there to do a job and do it well. I think my coworkers can attest that I did the job well. Shockingly, my sexuality has nothing to do with how good of a sports writer I am. Just like Collins’ sexuality has nothing to do with his basketball skills.”
With the issue of homophobia in the sports world, the writer concluded that everyone needs to learn to “clean up [his or her]vocabulary.”
“A few people would crack homophobic “jokes” and blurt out gay slurs at the office and in the locker room. I know they didn’t mean it, but that doesn’t make it right,” Jovenitti explained.
“It shouldn’t matter if someone’s gay or not; we shouldn’t be using those words. I’m not mad at these people and still consider them my friends, but I just hope they learn from this and stop using hateful words.”
Jovenitti ended his essay with a proclamation of who he is now.
“I’m sorry to everyone I’ve lied to. But, I’m Tony. I love sports. I love hockey. I love the Penguins. And I’m gay,” Jovenitti concluded. “I can’t make up for the lies I’ve told in the past, but hopefully, everyone will forgive me and we can all move toward the future together and find happiness.”
“If there’s one thing that my parents taught me growing up, it’s that lying is wrong,” he wrote. “And I let them down. But I know that they will accept and love me no matter what. They’ve even told me this when we’ve had discussions about homosexuality. I don’t know why I’m so scared to come out to the world.”