A place kicker at Willamette University in Oregon, Conner Mertens publicly came out as bisexual on Outsports. He began his coming out journey by sharing about being bisexual with the head coach of his football team. Mertens later tweeted a letter to his town. By doing so, he hoped to inspire people and help change attitudes about the LGBT community in his home town.
"You are not alone. You do not need to come out but you do need to know that you do not have to go at this by yourself. The aloneness you're feeling is temporary and it will get better. This place is changing...changing for the better. I made the decision that if I could prevent one person from feeling that self-hatred, loneliness, desperation and a thousand other emotions that I felt, I would. I will be damned if I let anyone tell you that you are wrong or weird or not normal. "Love yourself and allow others to love you. Be who you are and know you're not alone."
Since his freshman year of high school Mertens has been a member of Young Life, a national organization that gives Christian adults the platform to preach the word of God to youth. After graduating high school, he started training to be one of the leaders of the organization. Unfortunately, the organization’s policies ban members of the LGBT community to be a part of the organization.
"It kind of broke my heart. The only word to describe how I felt was ‘numb.' I always thought it could happen, that this was probably a rule they had. Young Life has made me the happiest person, and I had so many plans for my work with them. There is so much good I could do with Young Life. I replay all the memories I have and all that I learned, and now I realize I won't be able to give back to the kids. It kind of sucks. "I guess one door closes, another opens."
By although he was banned from Young Life, he became an inspiration as a first openly bisexual football player who is still actively playing. His teammates also showed a lot of support for their teammate. After coming out to his team, one teammate commented on Merten’s announcement:
"Football as a sport, it doesn't matter if you're gay or straight or bisexual or what your background is," Shaver told Outsports. "The sport doesn't discriminate. As long as you're willing to get on the field and in the weight room and in the film room and give 100%, it doesn't matter to us who you are. Conner's a Bearcat. Whether he's gay, bisexual or straight, he's one of us."
Mertens’ story is undeniably an important one not only for the community but also for athletics. When college players come out, they have a chance to inspire other athletes to do the same but they also give non-LGBT athletes a chance to speak up for equality. Read the entire story at Outsports.