RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina State University (NCSU) dive and swim team athletes bonded, not only as teammates, but also as members of the LGBTQ community during their competition years that ranged from 2006-2014.
“With the negative reputation North Carolina has gotten since the passage of House Bill 2 this year, you might not expect one of the country’s queerest teams in recent years would be in the Tar Heel State,” Outsports SB Nation reported.
SB Nation added that of the five they interviewed for their news story, only four would allow their names to be used. Those individuals were Derek Ernst (swimmer 2006-09), Jimmy Ross (swimmer 2008-12), Hudson Rains (diver 2009-13), and Chris Arcara (diver 2009-14).
Texas native Rains shared that when he was being recruited, he had visited the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, but declined that option due to a “threatening, violent comment about the LGBT community” by one of its swimmers. Instead he chose NCSU. During his collegiate career he finished in the top 10 in diving Atlantic Coast Conference championships. He also was involved in the university’s GLBT Center activities.
Arcara shared the he felt supported at NCSU.
Not everyone had a positive experience, however. Ernst hoped that the words shared with the team in a speech he gave to them during his departure, helped to make a difference in how the team accepted its gay athletes. “I’m leaving. I’m not happy on this team anymore, and I wish you guys all the best luck but I’m just done.” At the end, several applauded. Ernst’s decision to leave the team was based upon an injury, coupled with his discomfort with being bullied, innuendo and lies spread about his sexual encounters.
Ross joined the team in his freshman year when Ernst was a junior. Even though he began to come out in high school, he was reticent in telling his teammates after witnessing how they treated Ernst. Eventually, Ernst invited Ross to accompany him to a local gay bar and it was there that Ross shared his sexual orientation with Ernst. Ross told his teammates the next year when he felt comfortable to do so and even dated the fifth gay man during this time period.
The only one left of the four to still live in Raleigh, Acara felt that the recent move by the conference and the National Collegiate Athletic Association to relocate their events outside North Carolina because of HB2 to be “bittersweet.”
He told SB Nation, “I’m so proud that the ACC and the NCAA recognize the injustice aimed towards a large number of their athletes whom are affected and victimized by hate and prejudice. … On one hand, this is a huge step towards acceptance and equality. On the other hand, it’s too bad that we had to retreat to go forward.”
Even with the conference’s steps, it still remains that none of its schools are on any of the top LGBTQ-friendly lists from the 2017 Princeton Review or the 2016 Top 25 Best College rankings. Louisville, incidentally, made Campus Pride’s 2016 Top 30.
In a related story, the University of South Carolina’s director of baseball operations, Tyson Lusk, came out on National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11. Since then, he has received nothing but support from the school’s baseball coaches and players. He said that it had been great and that his fear and anxiety of sharing he was gay to the team has been put to rest. There has been no change in the way in which he is treated. In fact, he has received encouragement from administrators and staff.
Coincidently, Lusk’s previous post was at Chapel Hill.
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