For Estonian-American college swimmer Ayrton Kasemets, things are finally coming full circle.
Kasemets came out publicly in a 2015 op-ed he wrote for OutSports. In high school, he didn’t keep his sexuality a secret, per se, but he also wasn’t forthright about it either.
“I didn’t feel as if anyone at school really needed to know,” he wrote at the time. “If anyone would have asked, I would have answered truthfully, but no one ever asked.”
After enrolling at Oakland University in the fall of 2015, however, Kasemets decided it was time to start telling people he was gay upfront to avoid fueling the rumor mill.
“I knew that I needed to address the issue with the team as a whole so it would take away all the talk and the gossip,” Kasemets wrote.
Instantly I was surrounded by support. Despite some very odd questions at times from my teammates, I love them all for it because I know they care about me and show their comfort level. I am so thankful for my team because they give me support in times that I need it and allow me to be my complete self.
Two years later, Kasemets is now preparing to compete at the World University Games in Taipei, Taiwan this summer. As a dual citizen of both Estonia and the United States, he will compete on behalf of Estonia.
In case you didn’t know, Estonia is located on the Baltic Sea and is a former Soviet republic. Its record on LGBTQ rights isn’t great, but it’s slowly making progress. For instance, the country doesn’t allow same-sex marriage, but beginning 2016 it began recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other countries. #babysteps.
Kasemets tells OutSports he’s excited to represent Estonia as an openly gay athlete this summer. He feels a particular closeness to the LGBTQ community, who he says have always supported him, especially after he suffered a serious shoulder injury that required surgery last year.
“There were so many times during my recovery where I experienced negative self-talk and feelings of worthlessness,” he says. But, he adds, “my shoulder surgery was a minuscule issue compared to some of the pain that my LGBT brothers and sisters have experienced while in the closet or out.”
“From these experiences, we have learned how to take difficult times in our life and defeat them with positive energy and dignity.”
Scroll down to see pics from Ayrton’s Instagram page…