K-College football player, Groves alum comes out in national essay

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Christian Zeitvogel, who is double-majoring in political science and psychology, has aspirations of being a civil-rights attorney.

Christian Zeitvogel started coming out as gay to family and friends when he was a sophomore at Birmingham Groves High School.

On Tuesday, he made the news national, when he penned an essay for the website, Outsports.com — becoming the eighth active college-football player to be openly gay.

Zeitvogel, who just finished his freshman season on the offensive line at Division III Kalamazoo College, wrote, in part: 

"It was brought to my attention that a rumor about my sexual orientation was circulating around my hometown and made its way to Kalamazoo College, a private Division III school about two hours west of where I grew up. I was paralyzed with anxiety as I feared the inevitable reactions of teammates with whom I had barely become acquainted.

To my surprise, however, I have only experienced a few adverse reactions to which I have given little regard. After learning that a sizable portion of my new team was made aware of my closely guarded secret, I realized that there was no point in attempting to maintain a false front.

I suppose I was done giving a damn as to what others thought about me, and that it was time to accept who I was. I was done living a lie. I was done trying to be something that I am not.

I had come out to my family in my sophomore year of high school, and they served as my primary support. Slowly, I began to branch out as I learned to trust more and more people, eventually telling my close friends and even some of my teammates on my high school team.

I have been stunned by the overwhelming support and affirmations from those whom I feared rejection from the most.

Since I publicly came out this past Oct. 11, National Coming Out Day, with a Facebook post, I have been stunned by the overwhelming support and affirmations from those whom I feared rejection from the most.

In the days after I publicly came out over social media, I received messages from old classmates, teammates and coaches all offering their salutations and, in some cases, apologies for previous insensitivity or intolerant behavior.

Reflecting on all of this, I realized that while it was smart to wait until college to come clean with myself and the world, my largest critic was myself.

Surely, some people may have taken my news with disdain, but ultimately my insecurity was my largest barrier. Those whom I feared rejection from exceeded my expectations in their support for me; it was my own doubt and intolerance that made life intolerable.

By coming out, I can now focus my full attention athletically to being the best player possible. I wasn’t originally interested in pursuing collegiate football until I met the coaching staff from Kalamazoo. I fell in love with Kalamazoo and withdrew my interests from other schools that I was considering, such as the University of Michigan and Yale University."

The other seven openly gay college football players include Jacob Van Ittersum, an offensive lineman at Northwood University; Kansas State offensive lineman Scott Frantz; Arizona defensive lineman My-King Johnson; Air Force defensive back Bradley Kim; Indiana State cornerback Jake Bain (who just appeared on "Ellen"); Butler linebacker Xavier Colvin; and Capital University receiver Wyatt Pertuset.

Zeitvogel becomes at least the third athlete from Michigan to be openly gay while playing college football or basketball, joining Van Ittersum and former Hillsdale basketball player Derek Schell.

Zeitvogel, who is double-majoring in political science and psychology and has aspirations of being a civil-rights attorney, wrote that he was proud to be the eighth member of the group: "I want to help join the fight and be a leader for those who struggle to follow in a path similar to me."

He didn't start this season at Kalamazoo, but was part of a team that finished 7-3, its best record since 1963.


Twitter: @tonypaul1984