Chris Voth is believed to be Canada’s first openly gay national level athlete.
Over the weekend, he came out publicly in an article with Winnipeg Free Press where the over-6-foot athlete talked about the difficult process of accepting his sexuality and coming out.
He also said if his coming out can help at least one person, it was well worth it.
When Voth told his teammates individually that he was gay, fellow players said he made a positive impact in their attitudes.
‘We didn’t treat him any differently at all,’ fellow player Chris Komishon said.
‘If anything, the biggest thing was we tried to be more respectful of the language we used. In the past, the term “gay” was used negatively so we were just more conscious of that.’
‘It was tough," Voth said in his interview about coming out.
‘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.’
While his teammates responded positively, his family struggled a little more with the news.
‘We certainly are supportive of Chris and we try not to be judgmental but it’s still very new to the both of us,’ Voth’s father Lloyd said.
‘Where we’re at with our son is we still love him the same, there’s no difference in terms of how we treat him. However, it’s still something we’re not sure how we’re going to handle in the future.’
Despite the negative attention some high-profile athletes, like Tom Daley, have received for coming out of the closet, Voth said his motivation was for future athletes to have a good role model.
He said: ‘My motivation here is, I know when other athletes have come out, there is a lot of negative reaction. If it is all negative but one person gets helped, then we’re even. If one more person gets helped, then we’re plus-one.
‘I wish when I was growing up I had a role model for that. It was still kind of taboo. Now I see some athletes coming out and that’s kind of inspired me. Maybe I can help the people that follow me be more comfortable.’