Sunday, January 19, 2014

National Volleyball Player Chris Voth Is Out and Proud (And Hopes To Inspire Other Gay Athletes To Be Themselves)

Openly gay national volleyball player, Chris Voth
Photo by Joe Bryska Winnipeg Free Press
[Winnipeg, Manitoba] Chris Voth had it all. Except the truth. It was hovering there. Sometimes Voth felt it, but mostly he focused on just trying to fit in. Do what other boys did. Think like other boys did. Act like other boys did. The truth is, he was always like other boys. Just not the ones he first thought. "It was tough," Chris says. "I've kind of been living that life for about five years. It was pretty much sport that kept me going, teammates and friends I had through sport. The first person I told was a teammate in second-year university and I got to the point where most of my close friends knew but no family members. You imagine the worst so it took a while before I was ready to jump off the cliff and take the plunge with family." Last fall, Chris came out to his family in a letter to his parents. Then he was gone for four months of training in Gatineau. When he came home to spend Christmas with his parents, there were talks and tears. The first time Chris ventured into the LGBT community, it was through sport. He attended the Goldenboy Volleyball League's drop-in night at Gordon Bell High School with a friend. It is part of Out There Sports in Winnipeg -- an LGBT organization founded in 2002 that runs competitive and recreational sports leagues and other activities. He dressed casual so he could blend in."The first thing that happened was a couple of people came over and said, 'Hi' and then, 'Hey, aren't you Chris Voth?' he says, laughing. "Most of them just thought I was there supporting my friend, which I was, but I was there for me, too." While Chris was later comfortable enough to reveal he is gay, Out There Sports volunteer Thomas Novak says a comfortable atmosphere is what it is all about. "The main social opportunity, before this, for LGBT people, was the bar. So this is a viable alternative to the bar but also a chance to get together in a safe atmosphere and have fun," says Novak, who has been involved since 2003. "Every one of our groups is open to non-LGBT people as long as they are comfortable with us. But no one asks." It motivated Chris to run his own beach volleyball tournament called Pride Without Prejudice for the past two summers, with all proceeds going to Pride Winnipeg.

Read more at Winnipeg Free Press