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Coach Anthony Nicodemo, center, with his team

Coach Anthony Nicodemo, center, with his team

Coming Out for the Kids

June 23, 2023

Coming Out for the Kids

Anthony Nicodemo shares why he decided to come out to his students and basketball team, and discusses the importance of visibility.

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By Anthony Nicodemo

Ten years ago, on June 24, 2013, I walked into a classroom and told the high school basketball team I coached that I’m gay. Prior to that day, only a handful of folks knew this secret that I’d held for 35 years.

Just a week earlier I’d attended the LGBTQ Sports Coalition Summit in Portland, Ore., and it changed my life. I can honestly say that the time I spent there, with coaches and athletes like me talking about how to promote inclusion in sports, convinced me to come out.

For years I was afraid to share my true self, stuck in place over the fear of not being able to do what I love: coach.

For the first time, I felt that I had a community — folks in the athletic space that were part of the LGBTQIA+ community. I was so engaged in discussion and inspired to continue the experience that I changed my plane ticket so I could march in Portland’s Pride parade.

I knew it was time to come out.

For years I was afraid to share my true self, stuck in place over the fear of not being able to do what I love: coach. But after telling my high school basketball team I was gay, very little changed. My players embraced the news, and ironically we won way more than we ever had during the next few seasons.

Since coming out I’ve won several championships, won several Coach of the Year awards, and been elected as my local union president and to the board of directors of New York State United Teachers. My greatest successes have come as an openly gay man.

For 35 years, I lived in the closet out of fear for something that never actually existed.

Progress and Setbacks

A lot has changed over the past 10 years. Marriage equality became a reality, the White House has been lit in rainbow colors, we’ve seen openly gay candidates for president, and professional sports teams hold annual Pride Nights. In supportive environments, LGBTQIA+ students have thrived. We see them as class leaders and prom kings and queens.

However, this isn’t the case everywhere in our country.

Following tremendous strides for the LGBTQIA+ community many have actively attempted to stifle expression. The 2016 election of Donald Trump gave bigots the opportunity to feel comfortable with sharing their hate. Extremist groups like Moms for Liberty hide behind “parental choice” to disguise their hate, and some people use religion or the Bible to falsely push their crusades.

I can’t help but think of my LGBTQIA+ siblings who feel they cannot be their true selves. In states like Florida and Texas, educators face persecution for being themselves and embracing their LGBTQIA+ students.

Ultimately, the trickle down is destroying the experience that LGBTQIA+ students deserve. As an educator, I have always preached that our job is to provide students with an enriching experience that goes beyond just academics. Of course math and English are a part of this, but there is so much more. Sports, the school play, prom and the memories that are created in school are key points on the journey into adulthood. But many LGBTQIA+ students are facing hate and discrimination that sends our country backward and looks to silence anyone that is different.

We cannot allow this to occur on our watch.

Showing up to Support Young People

People often have asked me why I needed to “come out.” Why did I have to be featured in news articles? Why do I have to be a national LGBTQIA+ activist?

Visibility is important. Our kids need to see people who look and act like them in positions of power.

Here’s why: Visibility is important. Our kids need to see people who look and act like them in positions of power. They need to believe that they can be themselves and still succeed. I often coach with a rainbow pin on my lapel, just in case a kid on the court or in the stands needs that sign that they can be gay and succeed in sports.

This Pride Month, more than ever, educators who are able to do it safely owe it to our kids to be out and proud. We must confront the bigots who look to put us back in the closet. These kids need our support so that their generation can take on the fight and make strides that advance past those before us.

One of them may be the first openly gay president or the next openly gay professional athlete. All this starts with the support of educators who provide a nurturing environment of acceptance and inclusion.

The past 10 years have been the most rewarding of my life. I’m not sure what the next 10 will bring, but I plan on using my visibility to make the world a better place for those who will come after me.

Republished with permission from AFT Voices.

About the Author

Anthony Nicodemo is a social studies teacher, head boys basketball coach and athletic director at Greenburgh-North Castle in New York, the president of the Greenburgh-North Castle United Teachers and a member of the board of directors for the Sports Equality Foundation.

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The AFT was formed by teachers more than 100 years ago and is now a 1.7 million-member union of professionals that champions fairness; democracy; economic opportunity; and high-quality public education, healthcare and public services for our students, their families and our communities. We are... See More
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