Once again, a collegiate athlete has come out as gay. Once again, the athlete is a student at a Catholic school. [Editor’s note: See related blog posts at end of this report.]
Chase Boyle, a senior at Mount St. Mary’s University, Emmitsburg, Maryland, is on the track and field team at this Division 1 school. He shared his coming out story in a first-person essay on Outsports.com. The title, “Athlete at Catholic college finds being gay and religion do mix,” reveals the theme of the story, a happy blending of Boyles gay identity with his Catholic faith.
Boyle describes his school, affectionately referred to as “The Mount,” as being a very traditionally Catholic institution:
“We had mass for our opening convocation, team chaplains, team Bible study, theology classes, and classes with seminarians. Even our class rings were given out in a ceremony where the priest blessed them before we received them. “
Because of the school’s strong Catholic identity and his role as a varsity athlete, Boyle says he “thought that being gay wouldn’t mix well with my life at Mount St. Mary’s.” But a national tragedy that happened in another part of the U.S. this past summer gave him a new perspective on his life:
“It was in the wake of the Pulse Night Club Shooting [in Orlando, Florida] this June that my eyes were opened about the life I was living. If I were to die tomorrow people would not know who the real Chase Boyle really was? I knew that if I was going to live each day to the fullest I had to come to terms with who I am and face my fears instead of letting those fears control my life.”
Returning to school, Boyle “eventually decided enough was enough.” He gathered the courage to have conversations with his teammates and classmates, all of whom were supportive. These small steps helped him to take a larger step of talking with a church representative. He chose Fr. Jim Donahue, a theology professor who is faculty moderator of the school’s Allies Club. Boyle poignantly recounts the experience:
“It was already hot because the air conditioning was broken and the sweat was beading up on my forehead, but my hands were dead cold. We sat and I began to tell him my coming out story from this summer and how I was at a crossroads in this process being back at my Catholic university. He told me how happy he was for me and that he could see how happy it was making me that I was coming out. We discussed so much and it was such a rich conversation that gave me so much insight into his perspective.”
The acceptance he experienced gave him an insight into the nature of prejudice, as well as the double stigmas LGBT Catholics face:
“I learned a very valuable lesson that day. I learned that it is just as easy for me to stereotype someone because of their Catholic faith as it is for someone to stereotype me because of sexuality. It was easy for me to think that because I meet someone who is Catholic that they will hate gay people and condemn me for being gay.”
Boyle also had the additional challenge of coming out not only as a gay man and a gay Catholic, but as a gay athlete. He describes the quandary that his status as a somewhat public figure in the collegiate athletic world put him in:
“I compete in the throwing events in the field section of track and field with a specialty in the hammer and weight throw. If you have ever seen a throwing event being contested in the Olympics you would probably have a good idea of what I am describing. The throwers are all massive, muscular and macho men. . . .
“I am a thrower and have found a decent amount of success doing what I do. I am indoor conference champion in the weight throw and an outdoor conference champion in the hammer throw along with breaking school records in both events along the way.”
“I had thought that my sexuality would contradict my accomplishments I had worked so hard to achieve. I am a team captain and worked to get to where I am and the last thing I wanted was to be a distraction to my teammates and to make them uncomfortable.”
Coming out stories never grow old because each one is so unique. Their power is in the fact that they highlight two very powerful human qualities which all people struggle with at some level: honesty and courage. In Boyle’s case, as with many LGBT Catholics, there is also the added dimension of faith. Boyle concludes his personal essay with:
“I am out, happy and successful at a place where I mistakenly thought I could never fit in as a young gay man. I wanted to share my story because I hope that even in the smallest of ways I can help someone in need by letting them know that they are not alone.”
As this conclusion shows, coming out stories also create another beautiful human experience: community.
[Editor’s note: Boyle included several electronic ways of contacting him at the end of his article, including an email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.]
—Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, November 19, 2016
Related Bondings 2.0 posts on gay athletes at Catholic schools: