It's great to be rewarded for being the true you that you really are. Yes, may of us go through life punching the clock, doing our thing, but when you get noticed for the work you do, noticed for being a positive influence, that means something.
I remember receiving awards and honors in high school and was very excited, but not being out, I did wonder, would I still get these awards, be invited to participate in 1990's high school activities if people knew I was gay? I honestly thought I would not be as welcome, hence living in the closet until I was 24.
Joshua Moeckel shared his story of being an out cross-country runner and how a very simple award made him feel.
At my college’s most recent cross-country banquet, I noticed how at home I felt with my team as an openly gay athlete.
At our banquets we have an unofficial tradition of giving out awards made from paper plates. These little awards note various accomplishments or fun things that have occurred during the season.
This year I was awarded the prestigious “Team Dad” award. This award signified someone who was a reliable team member who may not have been the top runner, but was still a leader and someone teammates could go to if there was anything they needed.
Although this may have just been a simple paper plate, the award meant a lot more. Having the respect of my team and knowing that I was able to become someone they could rely on meant so much to me. – outsports.com
Joshua elaborates in his full story over at outsports.com, going back to when he came out and his bond with his teammates grew from that day on. He actually went back further to the 7th grade, when he started running. We've heard before about how some LGBTQ+ individuals immerse themselves in a sport, dedicate themselves to being amazing at a sport to deal with the stress of feeling sometimes confused or held back because of their LGBTQ-ness. Joshua mentioned that running helped him focus on something else. We all need that sometimes.
Middle school and high school years? Yes,we remember those years, too. I remember looking for the right out to come out, but never did. Like many other kids these days and unlike this 43-year old man, coming out in school to friends is becoming more of an occurrence.
Family members and coming out to them seemed to be the hardest for many of us. Head over to outsports.com and read how Joshua came out to his sister first, then later his team members in college.
But the reason this story was written might be two-fold. One would be this statement by Joshua:
In the end, being an out and gay athlete made me a stronger and confident person. It taught me to be myself and to face challenges head on. I know that there are many other athletes in the LGBTQ+ community who may not yet be ready to come out.
For those who are not out, I want to say to stay strong in whatever situation you are in and come out on your own terms, and to know that there is a community of other athletes who are here for you and here to support you.
But the other reason is because it seems Joshua had his own AAAAAHHHH or Ah Ha! moment.
Getting that paper plate from his teammates was life and the world saying, "You're okay kid! Keep up the great work!"
Goodness, don't we all need a paper plate right now?
Have you received your "paper plate?" Was there something that happened in your LgBTQ+ life that helped you realize that you're on the right track?
Joshua Moeckel is currently a junior majoring in psychology at Utica College in New York. He runs both cross country and indoor and outdoor track and is also an active member of his schools Gay Straight Alliance. He can be reached via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or on instagram (josh_moeckel).