Shutting Them Out, Shutting Them Up

Anthony Romeo twitter

[Ed note: please welcome Anthony Romeo. Please read his brilliant words. Please feel free to get chippy in the comments. Please tweet at his face here.]

And you, and you, and you, you’re gonna love me.  And then I’m going to rip your team apart, and you’re going to hate me.  But I promise, there’s a good boy here. Well, good…ish.  Ten years ago is a long time for me, and maybe it’s not for you. But when I picked up the phone ten years ago and told a friend that I was gay, it was a big deal.  I mean, it was The Big Deal.

I was 17, I had just graduated high school, and the news spread through my small upstate farm town like wildfire; folks driving by my house yelled “faggot” at my 11 and 12 year old sister and brother, my parents had their windshield broken out. Dickens was a liar, because mostly, it was just the worst of times.

Romeo2I had grown up watching hockey, identifying as a hockey player, a goalie. Proudly boasting my gym class floor hockey statistics was standard; and I believe that my freshman year stat of 9 shutouts remains unbroken in Pete Naples’ gym class.

I was closeted, but like many, knew that life after high school would provide the most appropriate safety net for me to make the big leap. I got to college feeling like I could make a new start, wear my own skin for the first time, be a full person.  Maybe kiss a boy. Or two. Or thr…I digress.

Freshman year, October. A deflating 3-2 Overtime loss left me dragging my goalie pads back to my dorm room at Seton Hall University. I hadn’t played a great game, but I knew we could rebound the following week, for my birthday game.

White walls stained red with paint and ink, the words were everywhere. “Faggot.” “Queer.”  “Homo.” Someone had branded my dorm door with their labels while I was out stopping 70 mph slapshots. If I had been a defenseman, I probably would have found someone to beat up. I’m a goalie, so instead, I just internalized everything and pouted.  The University investigated the vandalism, but not the message behind it. Human dignity isn’t a property issue, and the good folks at The Hall didn’t seem to know the difference.  Well, I did.

seton-logoReady for the longest story to be shortened?  I started a gay-straight alliance named “T.R.U.T.H.”, the University wouldn’t let us be a group.  I sued.  They didn’t like that.  “Romeo vs. Seton Hall” worked its way through lower court after lower court until winding up in the Supreme Court of New Jersey. It’s now taught as case law in dozens of universities and colleges across the country, including my brother’s own college class. From not understanding why people yelled at him in the driveway of a farm town to reading about your big brother in a textbook, in six years flat. Life is a series of funny little circles, huh?

Throughout the whole experience, I just wanted to be treated like a normal kid. The kid who strapped on his goalie pads every week and (mostly) stopped the puck was the same kid who kissed a boy. (And I liked it.) The same kid doing a press conference with CNN and ABC and NBC was also the kid who wanted to eat chicken nuggets and sing “Bring Him Home” when his roommate left for the night.

And now, maybe I’m not a normal guy. But something next to normal would be okay. I get to wear a lot of hats. I work in concert production. I’m a brother, a son, a goalie, a public speaker, an activist, a cat-owner, a husband, and a theatergoer. While ten years have come and gone, I am still shocked to see the ease with which people are able to transition from chrysalis to butterfly. That’s not to say that coming out is without its challenges.

Devils logo minimalBut waking up in a world you know you’ve helped to create, one in which the nation’s top selling hip-hop artist releases a song in support of same-sex marriage, a world in which I can get married and all of our family attends the party, one in which the Captain of my New Jersey Devils affirms that if I can play, then I can play…it’s all a bit remarkable in its own right, if only for how unremarkable it is becoming for everyone else.

Maybe we’re building a world where stories like mine are commonplace, normal, boring even. Hell, I’m a Devils fan, don’t think for a second that I can’t equate boring with success.

RomeoSo that’s me. Romeo. #30 to many.  Anthony, to some, even. I’ll be laying my fair share of hate on every one of your teams in the coming weeks and months.  So be sure to bookmark this article, my maiden Puck Buddys voyage. It’ll be a good reminder for each and every one of you, as you’re blotting your eyes with tissues over my latest evisceration of your team, that there’s a tiny little light under the darkness that’s coming to your doorstep.

Until next time. Your team sucks and I hate them, Romeo

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10 Responses to Shutting Them Out, Shutting Them Up

  1. Sam says:

    Devils suck, you rule

  2. Adam Miller says:

    Awww man, floor hockey in Mr Naples’ gym class, I was prob several years ahead of you but man I loved playing that, especially coming form a Lacrosse background lol.

    I do have to say though that I have seen that small town mentality, coming form the same small town, and that was one thing I could never understand. They say it takes a village to raise a child but god forbid if that child is gay, then that child is shunned and that child’s peers unmercifully bully them. These same peers who would love George Takei but spray paint fag on a gay kids house. I could never understand this but then I come from a diversified family, growing up with gay uncle and lesbian grandmother long before I knew what being gay was.

    Life is hard, doesn’t need to be made harder by narrow minded people and their inability to accept others of how they are.

  3. Andy Evano says:

    Courage comes in all shapes and sizes. The courage it takes to stop a frozen piece of solid rubber moving at a speed in excess of 70 miles per hour pales in the face of the courage it takes to face a bigoted world with the truth of ones heart. We have heard,”the truth shall set you free.” Only the courageous have the strength to pay the price of unbridled truth, and that price is indeed necessary for real societal change. Keep fighting, keep playing, keep shutting them out. When you win, we all win!

  4. 950003cups says:

    I read your blog, mainly because I’ve seen you as a poster on the F&I blog for a long time. Ok, so we get a glimpse of your personal life. I get it, you like it in the ass, so what? But what does t have to do with hockey? Tonight, is a Devils vs Rangers game. No mention at all of it?

    Maybe I’ll help.

    Them after its over PILLAGE THEIR WOMEN (or men, depending what you like) FLIP THEIR CARS AND STOMP THEM OUT!!

    Tonight it’s in our house!

  5. Matthew (@mattsko) says:

    Stopping pucks and stopping homophobia – you rule, dude! Welcome aboard the Puckbuddys tream. I’m not worried in the slightest about your threat to skewer all the teams, especially as I can’t think of a single negative thing you could say about the Habs.

    I’ve lived in a small community in Maine for almost 25 years now and I have to say I’ve never experienced any DIRECT homophobia (being called a faggot to my face, vandalism, getting threatened or beaten up, etc.) but the INDIRECT homophobia you could cut with a knife it’s so thick… denied jobs even though I was the best person for the job hands down, lies and slander spread about me (including a conservative newspaper reporter writing the most heinous things about me when I was an elected official in the local newspaper that he really should’ve been sued for and/or fired), accusations that I must be butt fucking everyone’s allegedly straight husbands & boyfriends (which, jesus, was only partially true), and so on. Progress? I guess. But more like baby steps. Thanks for taking the puck and running with it.

  6. Cheryl says:

    What a great article! I’m proud to say I know you!

  7. Andrea says:

    Bring it on! Looking forward to loving to hate you and your Devils 🙂
    Thanks for sharing your story. Makes you appreciate how far parts of society has come. But also makes me question if professional sports really does enough to create an environment where players – both professionals and non – can easily come out?
    and hell yay for the Rangers win tonight!

  8. Lisa says:

    Thank you for having the courage to bring this out in the open. The world needs more supporters like you with the openness and truth of which you describe. Best of luck..

  9. Kendra says:

    Hi there! This blog post could not be written any
    better! Looking at this article reminds me of my previous roommate!
    He constantly kept talking about this. I am going to send this information to him.
    Fairly certain he’ll have a great read. Thank you for sharing!

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