So many of us have fallen in love with the magical community on Fire Island, but having this tight-knit community the the catalyst for your own coming out story adds another layer to this legendary LGBT destination. That is exactly what happened for Jallem Messersmith who first headed to Fire Island during the summer between his junior & senior year at Benedictine College in the quiet (and conservative) community of Atchison, Kansas. The trip to the Long Island LGBTQ shangri-la simply shook him to his core. Messersmith told the Outsports podcast The Sports Kiki that upon returning from the island, he emphatically “was like, ‘I’m a homosexual, fuck the rest of this. I love this. I’m going to do whatever I want to do…’”. He went on to say “it ended up being on of the best things I’ve ever done.”
Messersmith’s coming out was not always so steeped in emphatic acceptance though. Home-schooled due to bullying during his formative years, Messersmith developed his passion for basketball. (A 6-foot-8 forward, he won Defensive Player of the Year two seasons in a row, among other accolades). The discrimination Messersmith faced continued into his college years, with a school administrator at Benedictine College directing him to remove the Pride flag from his room, simply calling it “ugly.” With a newfound confidence in himself and the community he discovered on Fire Island that summer, Messersmith returned to school a very different person than how he left. He told a friend about the incident with the administrator (via an article in the school paper) and received an apology email from the president in less than a day.
On Fire Island, Messersmith was able to dispose of the uber-masculine stereotypes that he had been following so carefully, realizing that sports could just be about the fun of it and not steeped so deeply in the competition aspect. During a game of beach volleyball, Messersmith realized that it could be all about the actual activity and camaraderie, while enjoying a sense of community; the stakes simply, did not need to be so high. “‘I don’t need to be the stereotypical jock here. I can be whoever I want to be and show up to this court, and people will support that.”
Like many of us who head to Fire Island, the drag queens on the island add that extra dose of magic. Performers like Logan Hardcore and Brenda Dharling (two of Fire Island’s favorite performers) and many others serve as ambassadors/fairy godmothers on the island, and that is no different for Messersmith. Of the dazzling drag you can catch on Fire Island and how it impacted his journey, he simply said “I didn’t understand drag culture. I didn’t understand what was going on with it. I didn’t know. And now that I know, oh my God, I will be at a drag show every single night. Sign me up, I’m ready to go.”