I was on the swim team in high school, and our coach was gay.
I was on the 4×400 relay team, and our anchor, and fastest swimmer, was George. He was gay also.
They were bullied often, but George always got a hero’s welcome when he swam well and got a victory for our team.
One day, we were at the poolside, hanging out, and George brought a folder out with him.
The rest of the team was there, and he set the folder down. Everyone began to murmur and gather around him, so I went over to see why there was so much commotion.
Inside the folder were photos…..of George…….in drag…looking stunning.
I looked in admiration, jealousy, and in fear.
I was so amazed that he had the courage to do this, let alone SHOW people on our swim team!
I was jealous because I was dying to reveal myself too, but too scared.
And I was afraid I’d get bullied, so I tried not to show too much interest, and casually disguised it by being nonchalant.
Many years later, I was the best man at Ryan’s wedding. We recalled our old high school days at his bachelor party, and I asked him what happened to George, because he went to the same high school as George, and I went to a different district.
“He died of AIDS,” Ryan said.
I was shocked and saddened.
There were so many things I wanted to say to him, and I never got the chance.
But what would I have said, if I had the opportunity today?
I’d probably give him kudos for having the courage to do what he did.
I’d tell him what I’ve gone through, and we’d swap stories. We would reminisce about high school, and how we got so many victories with a gay and trans person on the team.
Then I wondered what would I have said to him in 1994, at the poolside?
I would have told him I had a secret. I knew he would have been supportive.
I would have told him how beautiful he was in drag, and I would have felt so free, and seen for the first time.
I would have also asked him what I should do in case the other teammates found out about me?
And most importantly, I would have asked him how he coped so well with the stigma, the stress, of being out.
I would have asked him where he found his power, his potency.
And I would have told him what I would have wanted to hear from him:
That he looked fabulous.