For Couper Gunn, coming out was as easy as putting on a shirt and going for a walk, although at the time it seemed a lot harder. The star captain of his college soccer team told OutSports he was a counselor at a camp for teens in northwestern Massachusetts when he decided on the spur of the moment to wear his favorite Pride shirt and walk tall and proud into the camp cafeteria.
“I saw the shirt in my bag and thought, this is it,” the 20-year-old student-athlete from Colby-Sawyer College in New Hampshire said. “I put on the shirt and began the walk to the dining hall.”
Coming out had been on his mind in the preceding months, and he described the anguish he felt as “mental claustrophobia.” But that day at camp, the time was right.
Gunn broke down the walk into three parts. The first part of the walk he experienced an emotional intersection of fear and exhilaration, anxiety and bravery.
“I felt like I was simultaneously a target and beacon,” he recalled.
But as he crested the top of a hill, he stopped and realized the significance of the moment. This was the second part of the walk. He looked around and decided the forested vista below would provide the perfect backdrop for his first “out” selfie.
Gunn designated his entry into the dining hall as the third and final part of his journey, what he described as “the first real test of my courage.” What he experienced upon entering the hall was something entirely different from what he expected.
“What I felt in that moment can only be described as Pride with a capital P,” he recalled. “Pride in myself for finally being true to myself.”
He also realized that by walking into that dining hall wearing that shirt, his own version of coming out, he was providing a role model and some hope for other closeted teens he knew were there in that building at that moment “just based on the odds.”
This strength of character was nothing new for Gunn. He only grew to love and excel at soccer, for example, because he was bad at it initially that he was bullied relentlessly for it as a teen himself. Rather than back down or quit, Gunn rose to the challenge. He lost weight, got in shape, and soon became a star on his high school team.
Gunn wrote that he is now proud of his identity. He is on course to graduate in 2022 with a major in history and political studies along with a minor in education, and he intends to later obtain a master’s degree in education.