By DEBORAH NGANGA
Jessica Cavolt is a current sophomore who plays goalie for UMW’s varsity field hockey team. She is intelligent, entertaining, outgoing, dedicated and also, very gay. I had the opportunity to ask her questions about her experience in being open about her sexuality and being a part of a varsity sport.
Q: When did you first realize that you were gay? And was there a specific time that you came out?
A:I first realized that I did not have feelings for boys in third grade, but I tried pushing those feelings off in middle school in sixth and seventh grade, where I had a few boyfriends. In eighth grade I began getting more comfortable in my sexuality and realizing that I was gay. I came out to my mom in seventh grade when we were on vacation in Chincoteague. I came out to my dad on Father’s Day on 2013, and his response was “Well, duh.”
I came out publicly on Facebook in my freshman year of high school on January 8, 2012 with the simple status: “Let’s get something straight, I’m not.” I was shocked with the outpouring support and love I received from my friends and family just from one simple status or conversation.
Q: You were also very active in sports in high school, were you open about your sexuality then?
A: I was open about my sexuality all throughout high school but I was still pretty quiet and not really outright with it because I did not want it to be my sole identity. I wanted people to love who I was as a person and I did not think that being gay needed to be a big factor in who I am.
Q: Did you consciously make a decision to start your college career being openly gay or was it something that just happened?
A: I did not plan on starting my college career being openly gay. It was just something that happened. Again, I didn’t want it to be the singular adjective that described me as a person or player.
Q: How did members of your field hockey team first react to how open you were about it, have their feelings changed?
A: My field hockey team welcomed me with open arms. It’s never been a problem with me being an openly gay player on the team. The only feelings that have changed is that there is more love and support of me daily.
Q: Have your teammates and coaches been supportive?
A: My teammates and coaches have been my rocks this past year and a half. I was definitely nervous about coming out at first because I knew not everyone has had an experience with a gay person being such a big part of their life. My coach truly lives by the Athletic Department’s campaign of “If You Can Play, You Can Play.” What I do on the field has nothing to do with me being gay, she sees so much more in me and it’s so refreshing having someone that pushes me daily to be the best person I can be on and off the field.
Q: What do your teammates and friends outside of your field hockey team say about your openness?
A: My teammates and friends outside of my field hockey team think it’s amazing how open I am with myself. I actually received a few messages a few months ago when I posted statuses on Facebook regarding the LGBT community that made me realize how much of a difference I can make in someone’s life not only as a member of the LGBT community but also as an advocate.
Q: Do you have any advice for people, athletes or not, that might be afraid to be open about their sexuality?
A: Do not be afraid to express who you are. I was scared for a long time about what people would think about me being gay. I doubted a lot of people on how they’d react coming out to them and they ended up being my biggest supporters. Being comfortable with who you truly are is so important and I pushed it off for way too long. If people can’t accept you then they don’t really deserve to have you as a part of their life. I’m here for you along with a long line of other individuals that stand by you and support you for being who you truly are.