It’s the high school ending some of us wish we always had. For Hunter Sigmund and Jake Bain, it actually happened.
Sigmund was a gay swimmer who felt isolated because of his sexuality. Bain was a football player who was ridiculed on the field for being gay.
As Sigmund wrote in Outsports, “Instead of assimilating with a horde of generic high school boys, I decided that being alone was the best option. For months, I locked myself in my bedroom, initially feeling relieved that I no longer had to fake an identity to fit in.”
Except that didn’t ever actually work for Sigmund.
“Being isolated from all social interaction did not relieve my insecurities,” he wrote. “Instead, it added to them, because I still felt that I was being forced to hide myself from the world.”
That’s when September 4, 2016 happened.
“On that day, I was at a Labor Day party, surrounded by my classmates and closest friends. Jake was sitting on a rocky ledge by the pool,” Sigmund wrote.
“When I saw him sitting there, I felt an immediate urge to go over,” Sigmund recalled. “He had been in my position before. He had dealt with countless insecurities, yet he had overcome them all with a bright smile on his face.”
The two hit it off and talked for hours that very evening, “and as of today, Jake and I have talked every day for two years,” he wrote.
Adding, “After years of trying to suppress my sexuality and the pain associated with my fear of coming out, I felt freed.”
Bain began spending more time at the pool so that he could watch Sigmund work his magic.
Sigmund began the coming out process to his closest family and friends over the course of the next month.
Many of them already knew.
“…before I even had the chance to tell my teammates, many of them approached me and pulled me aside to assure me of their unconditional support,” he wrote.
He did feel wary about telling a few people, though. His coaches at the Christian academy.
“My coaches, specifically Leslie Kehr and Ashley Boesch, were two of the most influential and supportive people during my Burroughs career,” Sigmund wrote.
“Before coming out to Coach Kehr, I was very intimidated; she had deep ties to Westminster Academy in St. Louis, a Christian school that was extremely religious,” he said.
In fact, “when Jake played a football game against Westminster, numerous players shouted ‘stay down, faggot’ to him on the field when he had been tackled.”
To Sigmund’s surprise, Coach Kehr was fully supportive.
Swimming that year could have quite possibly saved Sigmund’s life.
“Before September 4, 2016, I had used swimming as an escape route,” he wrote. “I had treated swim practice as a way to manage my stress and relieve my internal chaos. Swimming was my chance to escape reality for a few hours.”
However, after coming out – things were even better.
“Once I came out, I felt liberated,” he wrote. “I no longer felt an unbearable burden on my back in the water, but instead felt free and untethered.”
He even broke a few records that year.
“With the support of my coaches, teammates and Jake, I shattered all my personal records during my final swim season,” he wrote.
Adding, “I qualified for the state championships in the 200 Medley Relay, 200 Free Relay and 400 Free Relay, and earned the title of ‘All-State Honorable Mention’ in the 400 Free Relay after placing 14th in the state.”
This kid’s the real deal. And he keeps proving it.
“To all of those out there who are too afraid to come out, I understand,” he wrote. “…know that you are not a mistake because of who you love.”
Adding, “Embrace your individuality, and know that there is an army of people who will unconditionally support you. Hang in there, and know that I, along with so many others, will stand with you no matter what.”