Jaden Vazquez, a sophomore linebacker from Bethlehem, Pa., had known he was bisexual for much of his life.
Last autumn, in the middle of the football season, Vazquez came to the realization that he just couldn’t hold back who he was anymore.
He had told some people back home, including his family, but more and more he felt he had to tell his football family at Fordham University.
After Vazquez came out to a few teammates, they encouraged him to come out to the whole team.
He agreed and shortly after National Coming Out Day, he uploaded a video on Instagram of himself literally coming out of a bedroom closet:
The video includes the caption: “As you can see it’s not easy for me to come out of the closet but here it is! I’m bisexual and I’m proud of who I am. Thank you to everyone who has ever supported me. I’ve struggled my entire life with self identity and I have finally found the strength to come out. Hope you enjoy the video.”
Looking back nearly a year later, Vazquez tells Outsports, “I’ve been pretty surprised to have zero negative reactions. A lot of people do get negative reactions when they come out, and that’s one thing I’m very fortunate about. My family is very open and loving and supporting, and my teammates are very open.”
Vazquez adds that everyone from his family to his teammates to his coaches were nothing but supportive.
“In football we do everything together,” he says. “You build strong bonds with people you struggle with every day through practice. And it creates the bond of family. At that point it doesn’t mater who the guy next to you is–his sexual orientation, his religion–you know the guy next to you has your back.”
Since coming out, Vazquez has taken a leadership role with Fordham Connect, a student-athlete support network that works to “erase the stigma around vulnerability and mental health in sport.” Vazquez says he works primarily with other LGBTQ students.
“We’re trying to have a safe space to talk about those things,” he says. “We know these are topics that are not really brought up in sports, because there’s this idea that you just play a sport. But the athletes are more than just athletes.”