A Lineman Comes Out

A Milwaukee teacher, Luke McAvoy, earlier told his college football teammates he’s gay. Recently he told the world his secret, too.

Luke McAvoy. Photo by Adam Ryan Morris.
Luke McAvoy. Photo by Adam Ryan Morris.

How did you end up playing Division I football as an offensive lineman at Minnesota?
Football has always run through my family’s blood. My dad played at Illinois, my older brother played at Michigan and me and my twin played at Minnesota. From the day we were born we were going to be football players. I saw pretty quickly I wasn’t going to be a star player, so I kind of focused on academics, focused on community service. I wouldn’t trade [the experience] for the world.

When did you first suspect you might be gay?
Seventh, eighth grade. I wasn’t 100 percent comfortable with it myself until probably my sophomore year [of high school] and finally just admitting to myself: “Okay, this isn’t just a really long phase.”

What was your mom’s reaction when you came out to her your senior year of high school?
I got it out and she said, “Hide it.” I was crushed. But now I think it was right. I think it was the correct choice. I was able to establish my identity as Luke, as Luke the football player, instead of, “Oh, Luke the gay football player.”

Did your family ever openly talk about gay people when you were growing up?
They never really talked about it negatively or positively. It just didn’t exist. Growing up, that was kind of the big fear.

What were the reactions from your Minnesota teammates when you came out to them in 2014?
I was never like, “Hey, can I have this meeting, I want to tell the team.” None of them had to come out and tell the team that they were straight, so why would I have to make this big announcement? A lot of guys initially were shocked; there was a little bit of discomfort. Through a few conversations, that kind of filtered its way out. The team was really phenomenal about it.

Did you expect your coming-out letter on Outsports.com to get so much attention?
I knew there would be some attention, but my inbox right now has 700 unread emails. It’s amazing the stories people are sharing. I had high schoolers who have emailed me saying this is something that they’re struggling with, that this story resonates with them. If one gay athlete sees this and thinks, “I don’t have to give up sports to be who I am,” that’s a great thing.

Why Milwaukee now?
I’ve been in Milwaukee since May. I teach middle school writing and literature at the Hmong American Peace Academy. I’m also going to Marquette for a graduate degree in educational leadership.

What have you learned?
It gets better. Now living through it, it’s so true. You’re so much more comfortable with yourself that you find joy in the things that you never expected.

‘Point of View: Luke McAvoy’ appears in the April 2016 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find the April issue on newsstands beginning March 28.

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