Coming Out, Football, Gay, LGBT, Living, NFL, Sports, Wade Davis -

Wade Davis on coming out as gay: 'People are loving you for you, not who you love'

Coming Out, Football, Gay, LGBT, Living, NFL, Sports, Wade Davis -

Wade Davis on coming out as gay: 'People are loving you for you, not who you love'

In the last 72 hours, Wade Davis has gone from an anonymous former professional football player to the latest face of social change and equality. Davis told theGrio that he has been “out” as a gay man for years; he has just finally decided to tell his story.

“Probably in high school, around 11th grade I started to understand that maybe I was gay,” Davis said in an exclusive interview with theGrio. “People around had used terms to describe someone as ‘gay’ but I didn’t understand what that meant.”

Davis, 34, publicly came out in an interview with earlier this week. He has received scores of positive messages, tweets, and various kinds of feedback since going public.

“I’ve had old teammates reach out to me and send me e-mails,” said Davis, who briefly spent time in training camp with the Tennessee Titans, Seattle Seahawks, and Washington Redskins from 2000-2003. Davis said that many of his friends from college were angry with him, but not because he was gay.

“The anger was because they felt that I didn’t believe in their friendship enough to understand that they would’ve loved me regardless,” Davis said. “We’re headed into a new era now where people are loving you for you, not who you love.”

Today, Davis mentors LGBT youth at the Hetrick-Martin Institute in New York and truly enjoys his work offering the kids a male mentor that they can look up to. He sees a lot of himself in the kids he works with and offers support to them that he did not receive growing up.

“The biggest thing I’ve come to realize, and I see that in myself when I was at that point, children need someone that will offer that kind of support and some kind of security,” he said. “My advice to (LGBT kids) is really to seek out those people who they can confide in and if they are going through these issues then that person can either stand up for them or be their biggest ally.”

“Not someone on the internet, but someone they can actually sit down in the coffee shop with. It’s a lot of work to understand your own value and to understand that you can be whoever you want to be.”

On the field, Davis struggled mightily during his four-year pro career, never playing a regular season NFL game. An undrafted rookie defensive back out of Weber State, Davis was on the verge of making the Titans out of training camp in 2000 before injuries during the preseason cost him a roster spot.

“(Playing in the NFL) was a complete shock,” Davis said. “I knew I was a good player, but I didn’t think I was at that level so the fact that I got a chance to play in the NFL was dream come true.”

It was through a pair of stints in NFL Europe in Berlin and Barcelona that Davis saw most of his playing time, all the while putting up the façade of being straight.

“Never during those playing days did I ever consider the idea of coming out,” he said. “Not that I ever felt like someone told me that I couldn’t be out. It was just my internalized fear that manifested itself and made me believe that because this is such a masculine sport that only men were allowed to play football that if I came out as being gay that they would perceive me as being weak or less than [other players].”

Seattle cut Davis in 2011, and he was cut again by Tennessee in 2002. In 2003, a severe knee injury in Redskins’ camp effectively ended Davis’ pro playing career and left him at a crossroads in terms of his life.

“I moved back to Colorado, and after about a year I got so sick of hiding and being in the closet that I packed all of my stuff on April Fools Day (2004) and moved to New York City,” Davis said. “(New York) was a place where I thought I could start fresh. Nobody knew who I was and I could start a new family and New York has allowed that.”

Born in Little Rock, Ark., Davis spent his early childhood in Shreveport, La. It was there, in the heart of the “Bible Belt,” that he fell in love with church. Davis said that he was at church three to five days a week. As a child he enjoyed singing in the choir and going to service, but as he got older he started to pick up mixed messages.

“I remember at a very early age that at some point what I was hearing from my preacher wasn’t quite matching up,” he said. “On the one hand he would say ‘God is Love’ and that everyone is made in the image of God, and then he would turn around and say that God doesn’t love these people.

“I just didn’t understand how people would live their lives as if they were living not to go to Hell. You weren’t living a certain way to reconcile to yourself. I just started to pull back from religion, though I always loved God and I believed in God, but as far as preachers and the messages they were giving, I just started to pull back.”

The post Wade Davis on coming out as gay: 'People are loving you for you, not who you love' appeared first on theGrio.

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