Outsports has the exclusive coming out story of a Division 1 assistant basketball coach Chris Burns, who is at Bryant University in Rhode Island. In the emotional first-person essay, Burns — who was a successful college athlete himself — explains how sports always gave him confidence but that hiding his sexuality created fear while growing up in rural New Hampshire. He also reveals that his college boyfriend was Anthony Nicodemo, who also went on to be a gay high school basketball coach, and that his support is what got him through some difficult years.
"Slowly I became more comfortable with myself, and Anthony did as well. I felt both pressure and fear rise in me. All of those early years, just beginning to explore my sexuality, were filled with a bit of denial. As comfort rose, I realized someday I would have to embrace and accept that this is who I am, and that I will need to be honest with people about it."
After Burns attended the Nike LGBT Sports Summit last year, he met so many gay people in sports, he finally felt he had the confidence to take the next step was to come out to friends and family and share his story. Then the SCOTUS decision to allow marriage for all American citizens, including same-sex couples, convinced him it was time.
"There is no greater feeling than being a part of something bigger than just you. That's what has always made sports so special for me.
"Since I started telling people in college basketball over the last few months, I've realized my fears were far worse than reality. I've realized that people, for the most part, are human beings first. For a guy who's relatively cynical and can be negative, the reactions of people in my sport and in my life have shut me right up and reenergized my hope in the human spirit, in empathy."
Burns hopes that his decision can potentially empower other closeted athletes and coaches and make a difference. He ends with the line:
"When the time comes to share your true self, you will feel so much love and relief and hope and freedom. It's a truly special feeling, and I just can't thank enough every single person who has helped guide and support me to this point."
Watch the video where Outsports' Cyd Zeigler explains the process it took for Burns to come out: