Featured in our 5th Annual Faces of Sports Issue!
Until now, U.S. professional golfer Tadd Fujikawa has been known as the youngest golfer to compete in the US Open on the PGA Tour in 2006 at the tender age of 15. But now he has another first – he’s the first professional golfer to come out as an openly gay male. Hailing from Honolulu, Hawaii, on September 12 he chose to make his announcement on World Suicide Prevention Day.
“I don’t expect everyone to understand or accept me, but please be gracious enough to not push your beliefs on me or anyone in the LGBTQ community. My hope is this post will inspire each and every one of you to be more empathetic and loving towards one another.”
The 27-year old shared with his 4,600 followers his personal experiences and struggles with mental health, including dealing with depression and anxiety. He debated whether or not he should publicly come out. However, looking back on the positive impact the stories of others had on his life, Fujikawa chose to make his coming out public to inspire and encourage others facing similar struggles.
He said, “I thought that I didn’t need to come out because it doesn’t matter if anyone knows. But I remember how much other’s stories have helped me in my darkest times to have hope.” Sharing the pernicious fear that comes from hiding in the closet he said, “I spent way too long pretending, hiding, and hating who I was. I was always afraid of what others would think/say. I’ve struggled with my mental health for many years because of that and it put me in a really bad place,” he continued. “Now I’m standing up for myself and the rest of the LGBTQ community in hopes of being an inspiration and making a difference in someone’s life.”
This is the second time Fujikawa has used social media to talk about his struggle with depression and anxiety. Last year he wrote about the importance of getting help, finding a good support system and releasing the quest for perfection. “We all have our issues and problems, just in different ways,” he wrote. “It’s how we deal with those issues and learn how to overcome them that makes us stronger and beautiful in the end. But it all starts with getting help.”
In his current post, however, he stresses the pain members of the LGBTQ community experience as a result of continuing discrimination, pain that still results in suicide for many. “As long as those things are still happening, I will continue to do my best to bring more awareness to this issue and to fight for equality,” wrote Fujikawa.
“Whether the LGBTQ is what you support or not,” he continued, “we must liberate and encourage each other to be our best selves, whatever that may be. It’s the only way we can make this world a better place for future generations. I can’t wait for the day we all can live without feeling like we’re different and excluded. A time where we don’t have to come out, we can love the way we want to love and not be ashamed,” Fujikawa wrote.
He then issued a challenge to his followers. Declaring that we’re all human and equal just as we are, he dared them to change the world for the better by spreading their love. It sounds like a worthy challenge to accept.
By Dirk Smith