Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Corey Johnson

Out High School Jock & Gay Activist

In the spring of 2000 the New York Times and Sports Illustrated profiled a gay athlete, a seventeen-year-old high school football player from Massachusetts named Corey Johnson. The story told how, with the help of his supportive school and parents, co-captain Johnson had come out to his teammates during his senior season in 1999.

What was amazing about this instance is what happened after he came out: nothing. His classmates and fellow athletes reacted with rare tolerance and respect for Corey’s difference. He waited a year to discuss his story with the media, because he was afraid the attention would detract from the task at hand: winning games.

Granted, it helped that Johnson was hardly the stereotypical gay teenager. None of his teammates suspected he was gay, so they were surprised at his announcement. Besides football, he had played sports all his life – baseball, basketball, wrestling and lacrosse. It also helped that his teachers, coaches and parents were uniformly supportive. When he came out to his father, he told Corey, “I'm glad you finally made the decision to tell us, and I hope you'll feel a lot better now.”

Johnson told his best friend Sean, who said, “I thought I knew everything about you. And I'm sorry you couldn't tell me this part you've been hiding.” Sean, who broke down in tears, remained his best friend. The few negative reactions came from parents of his fellow athletes, some of whom suggested that the team re-vote for captain. The coach and his teammates would have none of it. His team, the Chieftans, went 25-8 during Johnson's three seasons as middle linebacker.

Johnson has helped other young gay men who love sports feel that there is a place for them on their school teams, and helped straight athletes learn that having a gay teammate is not wrong or bad or weird. It just happens. Corey accomplished plenty on the football field and a whole lot more off it.

Corey spoke at the Millennium March in Washington, DC (late April 2000), and now lives and works in New York City. He is highly involved in gay activism, and for years has reported for, a gay issues-related web site.

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