(Editor's note: This post was originally published on the HRC Blog.)
Derek Schell is a Division II college basketball player at Hillsdale College in Michigan. He’s a brother, an artist, a student, a Christian, a brother and a son. And, as he revealed in a letter to Outsports, he’s also gay.
On his coming out journey, Schell battled depression and anxiety in high school as he hid a part of himself from his family and friends – and from himself.
“To be honest, I got good grades. I won a state championship. I dated pretty girls. And yet something still wasn’t right,” Schell wrote. “By that time, I figured meeting those expectations would make me feel more comfortable about who I was and how I fit in. I was sure that my low self-esteem and insecurities about myself would fade away.”
But it didn’t fade away. Even as he counseled friends on being proud of who they are and on loving themselves, he couldn’t see that he needed to follow his own advice. But as he fell in love with his boyfriend, Kevin, Schell made his own happiness a priority and began to come out to the people who were closest to him in his life.
“Although it was difficult at first, the process of acceptance and maturation in their understanding of my new-found happiness has proved me right in thinking I have the best support system that anyone could ask for,” Schell wrote.
He recently came out to his teammates, and found acceptance there as well. He's now the first openly gay Division II college basketball player. As an unexpected benefit of coming out, Schell has renewed his love for being on the court.
“My excitement and passion for basketball is at an all-time high. There was a time in college where my fire died down. However, in maturing and finding acceptance, the game has shown to me why I fell in love with it way back when I was 4 years old,” Schell wrote.
Schell also finds a silver lining in the struggles he endured on his coming out journey.
“Sometimes the darkest times in life are only doorways to the best moments of your life, the ones you were meant to experience and live to see,” Schell wrote. “I wanted to do this so that the generations to follow have an example; so that the younger LGBT youth who live afraid of who they are becoming can know they have nothing to fear and they are perfect the way they are.”
Read his full letter on Outsports.