A college softball player from the University of Texas shocked the sports world today by coming out as a heterosexual.
In an emotional press conference this morning, Jennifer Ryan, 23, announced that she was a “proud member” of the opposite-sex community. The senior shortstop is believed to be the first and only openly straight women’s softball player in the history of NCAA athletics.
“I would just like to thank everyone who has supported me through this difficult time in my life,” she told reporters at McCombs Field in Austin. “For years I have known that I was different, but lacked the courage to be open about my lifestyle with family, friends and teammates.
“Today I would like to tell the world that I am straight. It’s not something that I chose. I was simply born this way. And after years of living in the closet, the time has come for me to start being who I really am.
“I want to tell every little girl in America: you don’t have to be gay to be an elite softball player. Straight athletes hit just as hard, pitch just as hard, and run just as hard as everybody else.
“Hopefully my example will inspire other straight softball players to come out from the shadows. We need to stand up and be recognized for the amazing contributions we have made to this sport.”
Today’s news comes after several high-profile male athletes have come out as gay in recent months. Jason Collins became the first openly-gay player in the NBA this year after the Brooklyn Nets signed him in February. And the NFL is expected to have its first openly gay player when Missouri defensive end Michael Sam is drafted in May.
Just yesterday, men’s college basketball became the latest sport to have it’s first openly gay player when UMass sophomore forward Derrick Gordon came out to USA Today.
Other collegiate sports have long had openly gay athletes. But some, like softball, have notoriously had a dearth of openly straight ones.
Nevertheless Ryan’s coming-out has drawn support from several prominent gay softball stars. Shortly after the press conference 2008 silver medalist Lauren Lappin Tweeted, “Great day for college softball. Jennifer Ryan has proved we are a sport that accepts all lifestyles.”