Meet the First Openly Gay NCAA Division II Basketball Star

By Sunnivie Brydum

Originally published on Advocate.com October 07 2013 5:56 PM ET

LGBT athletic news outlet OutSports kicked off National Coming Out Week with an impressive and eloquent article written by the 22-year-old Hillsdale College senior who just became the first out male basketball player in Division II of the NCAA.

Derek Schell is a guard for the Hillsdale College Chargers and an international business major. And as of last month, he's out to his coaches, teammates, and classmates at his liberal arts college in Hillsdale, Mich. 

In his articulate op-ed, Schell recounts his high school experience as a "star athlete and a successful student" at a prestigious Catholic school, acknowledging that for most 17-year-olds, that situation would be a "dream come true."

"For me, it was a nightmare," Schell writes. "I became part of a group of people from whom certain things were expected, including being honor roll students and varsity athletes. … I hid who I was so that I wouldn't let other people down. It was much later that I realized that the problem was not that I didn't fit into my world the way that I wanted to. The problem was that my world didn't fit who I was. It fit the guy I was trying to be, but it didn't fit Derek."

Schell reveals his lengthy and emotional coming-out process, valiantly struggling to overcome stereotypes that made him believe he couldn't be an athlete and be gay; or be gay and Christian. Alongside his attraction to other men, Schell also developed what he calls an "emotional connection" to creative outlets like music, art, and photography.

"Those feelings conflicted with my understanding of being an athlete and I couldn’t figure out how to make those two concepts coexist," he writes. "Who I was becoming contradicted who I thought I was supposed to become."

Schell points out that three years ago, he promised himself he would never reveal his secret to anyone. But since then, with the support of his family, his boyfriend, and even classmates at his self-described "conservative college," Schell has come to realize that he "could be an athlete, be a friend, be a son, be a brother, be an artist, and be gay as well."

"I could even be a huge Glee fan too," he writes. "There never needed to be differentiation between the various aspects of my life and personality. One is not mutually exclusive of the other, and being all of these things, all at once, makes me who I am."

Find Schell's full article at OutSports — it's well worth the read.