Chris Burns, an assistant basketball coach at Bryant University, is the first openly gay Division I men’s basketball coach in NCAA history. Burns chose to reveal his sexual orientation by publishing an essay on OutSports.
Speaking from his heart, Chris Burns chose to discuss his decision to come out, revealing that the reality is a lot less daunting than the fear one creates in the mind. In the essay, Burns explained his painful journey that involved constantly masking his sexual identity during his high school days as well as when he was in college.
Speaking about the excessive compulsion to not come out, Burns writes, “I kept my head down and focused on my identity as a good hoops player to keep attention away from my secret identity as a gay kid growing up in rural New Hampshire.”
Though you may be successful in expertly concealing your true identity, it is never easy, and the pressure starts to take a toll, both mentally and physically, continued Burns.
“When you’re lying to everyone about who you are at your core, lying about everything else gets easy. Those habits and behaviors were very toxic for every aspect of my life.”
It was this pressure that eventually forced the Bryant University coach to stop pretending and openly acknowledge his sexual orientation. Fortunately for Burns, the times have changed a lot.
The coach says instead of the rejection he so strongly feared, people welcomed him dearly and were been completely supportive and encouraging towards him,
“I realized that fears are far worse than reality. I encourage others who might be struggling to completely reveal a major part of their identity. But always know this: When the time comes to share your true self, you will feel so much love and relief and hope and freedom.”
There haven’t been many openly gay coaches or players. In fact, Chris Burns’ open admittance that he is gay comes about a year and a half after then-University of Massachusetts guard Derrick Gordon became the first openly gay player in D-I men’s basketball, reported the Huffington Post. Perhaps the revelation by Gordon, which indicated he faced discrimination from other schools during the transferring process, was dissuasion enough for other coaches and players to keep mum about their sexual identity.
“He’s not the type of coach who yells. But you respect him because of his basketball knowledge and how he communicates tactically. He’ll sort of give you a look and you’ll know what he means.”
Chris Burns chose to confide with the students at Bryant University last month before publicly announcing he was gay. He says the support he has received is overwhelming.
In fact, Bryant head coach Tim O’Shea laid to rest any doubts by saying, “If a high school parent all the sudden feels like we’re on the wrong side of this issue and that persuades a kid not to go to Bryant, so what? We move on.”
He was referring to the recruitment, which, needless to say, is the pivotal part of Division I basketball coaching, reported USA Today. Bryant assistant coach Frankie Dobbs added that he was deeply saddened by the double life his colleague was forced to live due to the “basketball culture.” He noted that Chris Burns’ courage would undoubtedly serve as an eye-opener, and the teams would be much more supportive to their gay companions without judgement.
[Image Credit | Bryant Athletics]