Growing up in an athletic family in Rochester, New York, John Speicher, was thrown into sports at a young age. As an athlete he never wanted to try and act like another person or fake interest in things he wasn’t interested in, similar to how he wasn’t going to play a style of tennis the didn’t like. “In my mind, it was inevitable that I would come out, but like many others in the LGBTQ community, I was afraid of how the people in my life would react.”
Three years ago Speicher came out in an Instagram post on National Coming Out Day, on Oct. 11, 2020. came out to someone for the first time almost exactly 3 years ago today. The process since then has been long, scary, rewarding, and definitely worth it. Happy national coming out day!”
Speicher said in an essay in Out Sports: “The first time I ever came out to someone was in October 2017. The process from that moment to coming out to my teammates took three years. My team at Dartmouth has always been really close. We spend a ton of time together and we all enjoy being around each other. That culture was always a big focus for us and our coaches.”
There had been many times over those three years where I thought about coming out to them. I had planned to start with one and then gradually tell the rest. Over the summer of 2020, when we were all home due to the pandemic, I even typed out a message after yet another case in the Supreme Courts challenging LGBTQ+ rights, but I never sent it. I just couldn’t get over the fear that they might not be accepting or treat me differently. That fear was not new, it was something that I had been feeling for years and that prevented me from coming out sooner.
Over time, that fear followed me onto the court and had an impact on my tennis. Tennis is such a mental sport and confidence is everything. To be able to trust your game and shots in the big moments is critical, and when you’re doubting yourself and lacking confidence off the court, it’s easy to let that affect you on the court.
Unfortunately, I never had the chance to see if coming out would have the positive impact I thought it might during matches. Due to the pandemic, all sports in the Ivy League were cancelled and I will not be using my additional years of eligibility after graduation.
“I think it’s important to increase the representation so that people at the upper levels of the sport will be able to come out and feel supported,” Speicher concludes.