Will Mansfield first realized he was attracted to men after a sleepover with some friends. Now, after playing in the Little League World Series and finding golf, he will be one of the very rare out golfers as he hits the links for Occidental College in Los Angeles.
I was scared. I texted my ex-girlfriend again.
"Are you sure I should do this?"
She replied: "Of course! If you feel ready then you should."
I buried my head in my pillow, what would everyone think of me? Knowing I wouldn't have the courage to move the mouse over the "post" button and click it at the same time, I had pre-positioned it so I was just a click away from sharing my secret with the world. With my head still buried, I reached out and found the mouse. There's no turning back now, I thought.
I quickly clicked to place my status on Facebook and recoiled into the fetal position, in fear of what could happen.
I was now openly bisexual.
If you had asked me when I was a 5- or 6-year-old if I thought I would ever be something other than straight, I would've given you a strange look. First, I didn't really have a concept of sexuality; And second, I had much more important things in my life, like aspirations of being a baseball star.
I loved baseball more than anything. I would pitch along with Roger Clemens and hit homeruns with Barry Bonds whenever they were on TV. I lived and breathed baseball.
By the time I was 12, baseball was starting to get more serious. I played in the Little League World Series and was also looking for a competitive team. I was also interested in girls - Like on most teams, conversations revolved mostly around sports and girls.
I was just like the rest of the guys on my team until a sleepover with some friends one night. At first I didn't think about it at all but it stayed there in the back of my mind, nagging at me. I realized I liked "that" sleepover. Eventually, probably from me saying something, word got out to my baseball team that I had done some "stuff" with other guys. No one judged me for it and it wasn't an issue. However, I still did not make the connection to my sexuality.
What happened did not make me gay or bisexual, I thought, it just kind of was something that happened.
When I reached age 14-15, baseball was getting serious. I was working hard to get in shape and training to play in national showcases. It was around that time that I had my first real girlfriend. Between the two, plus entering high school, my sexuality kind of fell away and I forgot about it for a little while. It was there but it didn't matter.
Slowly though, even with all the distractions, it crept out of the dark pit I had left it in. I started noticing guys more and more and it was becoming harder to fight the feeling that I might not be straight. So, I told the person I trusted most: my girlfriend. In hindsight this was a terrible idea because I wasn't ready and it was a big shock to her. She wasn't homophobic at all, just shocked. Nonetheless, I backtracked as well as I could and buried my feelings. I wasn't ready to be open about my apparent bisexuality; I still hardly believed it myself.
Eventually she and I broke up and I reached a low emotional point. It wasn't depression. I just didn't know who I was, and I had lost someone I really felt I loved. I was just going through the motions and didn't really care about anything.
I realized I couldn't hide from myself any longer; I had these feelings for guys that were not going away. It was not acceptance, but it was a step in the right direction.
I also found a new passion in the form of golf.
When I found the golf team, I felt like I finally found "my people." I fit in well with the social group and had plenty of potential. After my first golf season my sophomore year in high school, I was hooked. Everything was going well in my life and I felt really happy - Everything except coming to terms with my bisexuality.
The summer between my sophomore and junior year I found another girl and got more serious about golf. Baseball was beginning to slip. Despite interest from various colleges, I just wasn't interested. It was hard to let go of a sport I had loved for so long, but I just didn't want to play at such a competitive, national level anymore. I enjoy playing for my high school team, but after this season I'll be just a fan (Go Mariners!).
A few months into my new relationship I just finally accepted I was bisexual. I couldn't get rid of the feelings I had and was kind of fed up with the internal struggle. Even though I accepted myself, I was deathly afraid to tell anyone. I didn't know what people would think of me and had a reputation I wanted to protect.
After I accepted myself, the first step was telling other people. One of the first people I told was my girlfriend. I trusted her. It is one of the hardest things I have ever done. When I finally muttered the words, paralyzed with fear, she supported me. There was no change, I was no different and she realized that and loved me all the same. Her reaction gave me hope that everything would work out, that maybe I wouldn't be ostracized.
As the year rolled into summer I slowly told a few more people. Each time they said they supported me and it didn't change anything. I was so excited I could've exploded! It was a slow process and I was beginning to become more comfortable with the idea of being totally open.
By National Coming Out Day - Oct. 11, 2014 - I knew what had to be done. I was scared but determined. When I posted on Facebook I had no idea what would happen. It was late at night so I went to sleep. Worrying wasn't going to change anything:
"It is National Coming Out Day today so I have something to tell all of you wonderful friends: I am bisexual. It is an exciting thing to say but a scary thing to say as well. I just finally realized that I need to be more true to myself. Thank you to everyone who has been supportive."
Waking up to dozens of "likes" on my status was exhilarating and flooded me with relief. When I saw that, I knew everything would be okay.
It was a little odd coming out publicly like that to friends first, and only then telling my parents. It did create some awkward conversations. In the end though I needed the support from my peers to tell my parents, and even then I could only tell them through a letter. When I did tell them though, they supported me just like everyone else had.
It is not easy being bisexual. Often times we are labeled as the "gay still in the closet" or the "straight person who wants attention." That's just not the way it is. I know that I feel an attraction to both genders, but sometimes even that gets convoluted. Some days I wake up feeling attracted to one gender much more than the other. As I get older and begin to learn more about my feelings it may become clearer, but for now I am happy just accepting myself and being open.
I know there are many people like me out there who are too afraid to come out or aren't sure of themselves. I really hope I have inspired someone to find their courage and be who they truly are because it is a liberating experience that I can't quite put into words.
Now I am nearing the second semester of my senior year in high school. I'm totally content. I finished the golf season by qualifying for the spring state tournament and making the All-League First Team.
I also worked hard enough to be invited to play golf at Occidental College next year, and I can't wait to begin that chapter of my life.
Even though I am totally open in my current social group, I am still apprehensive about telling complete strangers on my new team. But, if the support I received from my peers is any indication, I will have nothing to worry about.
Ultimately I am being true to myself, which is all that matters.
You can follow Will Mansfield on Twitter @WillMansfield2. You can also email him at William_Mansfield@comcast.net.