• ENGSO Youth

Interview with Todd Harrity

Pride Month might be over but Luca Arfini, a young communications professional from Italy, continues with the interviews of the young athletes who decided to come out of the closet.

Today’s story is of Todd Harrity, a top-ranked American professional squash player who, with his coming out in 2018, became the first openly gay male squash player in the world.

What is the importance of sports in your life?

The sport of squash has been a big part of my life since I was 5 years old and I am very grateful for everything it has given me. Through competing I have learned a lot about life and a lot about myself. I have learned how to focus, how to work extremely hard, and put forth my fullest effort.

Moreover, I traveled the world and been to places I would never have visited otherwise. I have also made friends I would never have met if it weren’t for squash. I have a lot to be thankful for.

When and why did you decide to come out of the closet?

Coming out for me was a long process. I came out publicly about two years ago. On April 28th, 2018 to be exact. However, for many years before that, I had been telling my closest friends. I decided to come out publicly because it was becoming too difficult and painful to not be able to just be myself and be free. I was tired of having to be vague about my personal life and having to deflect certain questions when they would arise. The pain of keeping the secret was finally greater than the fear of coming out. It is difficult to form new, meaningful friendships when you are constantly hiding something about yourself.

I had finally reached a point in which I didn’t care as much about what other people thought of me. Previously, I had been terrified of how people would react if they knew I was gay. Finally, at 27, I felt that if people didn’t want to be around me anymore because I was gay, then I probably didn’t want to be around them either.

What are the main challenges that LGBTI professional athletes could face during their careers?

The world of professional sports is one domain that is not particularly LGBTI-friendly. Especially, I think, for male athletes. There are only very few professional male athletes that are openly LGBTI. So, I think the biggest challenge for LGBTI athletes is simply being a minority. It is difficult to be different, and to feel alone, and out of place. Like if you do not belong.

Do you think the sports environment has become more inclusive for the LGBTI community over the years? Why?

I think that the world of Professional Sports is becoming more inclusive to the LGBTI community. In recent years, high-profile LGBTI athletes have come out, and have been well-received. The world, in general, is becoming more accepting of LGBTI people, and the Sports world is starting to catch on as well.

How can sport contribute to foster integration and equality in the younger generations?

I think sport is a terrific medium through which to foster integration and equality in the world. Sport is culture. Sport is entertaining. Many people feel attached and connected to sports teams and individual athletes they love. I think athletes are in a great position to have a big impact on the social climate towards LGBTI people. I believe the world of sport celebrating LGBTI athletes and the greater LGBTI community, will have a big impact on society.

What would be your advice to the LGBTI youth (based on your experience)?

My advice for young people would just be to take your time growing up. Don’t feel you have to label yourself or define yourself too soon. Growing up is a difficult and confusing time for a lot of people regardless of sexual orientation. It is normal to have doubts and to question yourself. So, take your time in getting to know yourself. Also, we all have lonely times. You are never as alone as you feel. Don’t feel ashamed to ask for help when you need it.

According to you, what is the future of the new generations of LGBTI people in sport?

I think the future for LGBTI athletes is very bright. The world is becoming more and more accepting. Although it is still difficult for professional athletes to come out, much progress has been made and I think the social climate for LGBTI athletes will be improving quickly.

I was actually pleasantly surprised that my coming out was not a bigger issue for my peers. I had many fears about whether or not I would be accepted by the other athletes if they knew I was gay. That is why it took me so long to come out. I thought I would be alienated. I thought the other players wouldn’t talk to me anymore, and I thought no one would want to share a hotel room with me at tournaments. But none of that was the case.