A high school in suburban Illinois crowned openly gay student and hockey player Anthony Arnoni as homecoming king.
On September 21, the high school senior was crowned homecoming king at East Leyden High School in Franklin Park, which is located in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago. In a series of photos posted on his Instagram account, he poses with a blue velvet crown and a ceremonial sash.
"Hold up, let's adjust our crowns and tiaras," he said.
Arnoni has been publicly out for less than a year. In an essay for the LGBTQ+ athletics website Outsports, Arnoni said he struggled to find the right way to tell people that he's gay. He tried to repress his feelings and lied about being attracted to girls in order to fit in with his teammates, who assumed he was straight.
"I always knew that I was somehow mentally separated from other teammates," he writes.
By the time he was a sophomore, Arnoni was consumed with the secret that he was carrying around. "Every last millimeter of my head space had been overtaken by anxiety on what I was going to do next," he recalls. "Every second of every day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, was occupied by these anxiety-provoking thoughts."
Though he was popular at school, that only heightened his anxiety, since he knew that news of his coming out would be widely spread.
Ultimately, it was a coming-out video by Dylan Geick, a fellow gay Chicago wrestler, that gave him the courage to come out. He told one friend, then his parents and family, and finally made an Instagram post sharing his truth in March.
To his relief, his loved ones and teammates all supported him and little changed, although his anxiety greatly decreased.
"I was fortunate enough to not lose a single friend or even be degraded by a single person," he writes. "Being able to start this season as the out version of me has been extremely liberating. I have been able to walk in the locker room without worrying about putting on my fake face in order to fit in with the rest."
Following the warm reception from his family, friends, and teammates, Arnoni was amazed to find that his classmates had elected him Homecoming King. "To have this happen just months after coming out as gay was something I could never have imagined," Arnoni said.
Arnoni will graduate this spring and hopes to study neuroscience at UCLA.
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