Oakland Univ. swimmer comes out in open letter

Posted at 7:00 PM, Sep 15, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-15 19:00:27-04

The water has always been home for Ayrton Kasemets. It's always been his safe place.

"The pool is somewhere where I escape to be with my friends, and to relax," he tells me.

And maybe it's been that place for him, because outside of the pool, the Oakland University sophomore swimmer felt like a fish out of water for too long.

Ayrton is gay, and for years he felt nervous to tell his father.

"It was just something that I would worry about constantly."

Once he shared who he truly was with his dad, he received only love. From there, his surprises continued.

He decided to tell his college teammates at their annual kickoff cabin trip. Sitting around a campfire, he recalls stirring with nervousness.

"I was one of the last people to tell a story, so I had to wait for all these stories. I was really antsy and really anxious, but once I did it, I felt complete relief."

The Oakland swimming team immediately rushed to him with support, and some "interesting questions," he jokes. Acceptance is one thing. It's a major thing. But the Golden Grizzlies have more than offered acceptance. 

They're celebrating Ayrton for who he is.

"The more diverse we are, in however you want to define 'diverse,' it just makes us that much stronger," Oakland swimming and diving coach Pete Hovland says.

Hovland has coached Oakland to an incredible 37 consecutive conference championships. A pool open to anyone, cut from any cloth, is something he points to as a key point in his coaching strategy.

"Students athletes, my group at least, don't seem to judge. They just let people be people, and welcome them for who they are."

Ayrton recalls the stories of others before him, who struggled to find acceptance once they came out.  

He says their courage helped him open up, and gave him the idea to pen an open letter online.

"All those coming out stories normalized the idea for me. So if I can inspire just one person, that's just amazing."

Brad Galli is a reporter and anchor at WXYZ Detroit. Follow Brad on Twitter @BradGalli