When gay marriage was legalized nationwide over the summer, the first thing Matt Bower did was text his boyfriend.
“We congratulated each other for some reason,” Bower said with a laugh. “It was just a good feeling. I was super happy.”
Bower, who came out to his friends and family between his freshman and sophomore year of college, has been dating Michael for more than a year.
“I was actually really excited because I’ve always moved around my entire life, so I get bored of one place really easily so I never know where I’m going to end up,” Bower said. “Knowing that, nationwide, gay marriage is legalized, I won’t ever have to worry about getting married to Michael – because we’re obviously planning on that.”
Though Bower has lived in many different places, this university has always been a planned destination.
Bower’s father attended this university, so “Maryland has always been [Bower’s] dream school.”
“I didn’t actually know that Maryland was such a big supporter of the LGBT rights until I came here,” he said.
Bower, a junior, came out to his friends during his freshman year.
“My current friend group I have here – they really helped me,” Bower said. “They really let me embrace who I am. They are now best friends with my boyfriend, too. They’ve always been super accepting of me.”
Junior geographic information systems major Maddie Guy met Bower at the beginning of their freshman year. Guy said Bower has definitely grown as a person since coming out to his friends.
“Once he [came out], I felt like he was even more comfortable with himself and the people around him,” Guy said. “It was good that he opened up to everyone. I feel like we got a lot closer once he did.”
However, Bower did not receive the same reaction from his family.
Once he and Michael started getting serious, Bower said it was a “necessity” to come out to his family.
He said his mom did not take the news too well at first. However, Bower’s dad and brother talked to her.
“It was weird because they’re not the most close-minded, but they’re very conservative,” Bower said.
“So they talked to her and basically helped her understand that, as a Christian – because I’m still Christian – I’m not going to hell for my sexuality. So she came to terms with it – she accepts me, definitely. She still doesn’t agree with it, but she loves my boyfriend. It’s gotten better.”
While Bower’s mom came to terms with his sexuality, Bower, a kinesiology major with aspirations to be an athletic trainer, had to acknowledge the lack of acceptance in sports- especially men’s sports.
“In all honesty, I’m kind of afraid because the athletic world isn’t very accepting of homosexuality as a whole on the men’s side,” Bower said. “I’m ready to receive criticism, if I do receive any from my team. I’m not going to be afraid to be who I am.”
Bower currently works as an athletic trainer at this university. He said he’s never faced any prejudice or heard any homophobic comments from team members.
“I’m not involved in the actual locker room as much, but when I am in there, no one’s calling each other a ‘fag.’ No one’s even saying ‘that’s gay,’” he said.
Bower said he believes the women’s sports community is more accepting than the men’s, even though society is progressively altering its views.
“I think that a lot of gay athletes are just so scared of what the reaction would be because of what reactions were in the past,” Bower said. “I think that today is very different and I think that the reactions would be very supportive.”
Bower said he’s excited for the future.
He said he believes his generation’s views on sexuality is changing the mentality of the older generations and making the public feel more comfortable with the LGBTQA+ community.
“I think that our generation is kind of starting a revolution to make homosexuality more acceptable nationwide,” Bower said. “Even throughout the world, you see Ireland legalizing gay marriage by popular vote, which is incredible.”
Featured Photo Credit: Matthew Bower, a junior kinesiology major and current athletic trainer for the University of Maryland. As an aspiring athletic trainer, Bower is prepared to receive criticism from men’s sports teams for being gay. (Cassie Osvatics/Bloc Reporter)
Maya Pottiger is a junior journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.