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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

NAIA basketball player Jallen Messersmith comes out as openly gay

Jallen MessersmithJallen Messersmith, an NAIA basketball player at Benedictine College, is the latest athlete to come out as openly gay.

Messersmith completed his sophomore season at Benedictine, a liberal arts Catholic school in Atchison, Kansas. Last year he came out to his family and basketball team, and he says he has received strong support from both. This week, he came out publicly in a story for OutSports.com, the leading media outlet covering gays in sports.

Messersmith is listed as a 6-foot-7, 215-pound forward. He led the Ravens with 53 blocks despite playing just 14.5 minutes per game. He averaged 4.9 points and 3.6 rebounds per game last season as a sophomore.

Messersmith told OutSports he is more than welcomed by his teammates, which is comforting considering the way he was picked on as a kid. He says he was home schooled for two years because of how much he was bullied as a youth. Messersmith grew up Mormon but left the church because it denounces homosexuality. He told OutSports that he talks about his dating life with his teammates and that he has had boyfriends attend his games.

Though the situation seems comfortable between him and his team, Messersmith didn’t always feel like he could come out. Currently completing his sophomore year, Messersmith did not come out as a freshman in 2011. It wasn’t until one of his teammates died in a car accident that he was inspired to open up about his orientation.

“When that happened, I looked at myself and asked ‘What am I? What am I doing?’ At that point, I had accepted that I was gay. Seeing him die young and in such a sudden manner, I didn’t want something that was such a big part of what I am to be hidden. I wanted it to be something I was out about, I was proud of being and that people accepted me more. I did not want that to be hidden for the rest of my life,” Messersmith told OutSports.

Messersmith told his parents he was gay at end of the spring semester last year and wrestled with the decision to open up to his team. He told his coach first, then met with other assistant coaches. After they expressed support for him, he felt much more comfortable with the entire situation. But he apparently did not feel comfortable making a big announcement to the whole team, so the news spread after Messersmith’s mother told the mother of one of his teammates.

The team took it well and the news even changed the opinion of gays for one of his teammates.

Though an NAIA basketball player coming out is not the same thing as NBA player Jason Collins revealing he is gay, it still can help others who are struggling with their sexuality feel more comfortable about coming out to their teammates and family.

Photo: Benedictine College athletics



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