Live Your Life In Open Confidence

On this first day of Pride month, it’s great to reflect on how far we’ve come and how much things have changed for the better. For those of us in the gay community, Pride Month is about recognizing and celebrating where we were, where we are, how we got here, and where we are going.

I’ve been married to my wife Sarah Bowman, who is also my caddie, since November of 2020 and our union is more accepted now than at any point in history. People view us now as married people. We aren’t the “gay couple,” we’re the couple, just like any other. That’s a big jump from just a few years ago and lightyears from where society was when I was a kid.

I’m 40 now and have been on the LPGA Tour for 16 years. When I was a rookie, my friends and family knew that I was gay. But it wasn’t something that I publicized. I didn’t want to alienate any potential sponsors and didn’t want to put any of my existing sponsors in an awkward spot. I wasn’t closeted. I just lived my life quietly, keeping my orientation out of the public eye.

Even that was better than the way society viewed us when I was young. I noticed when I was 15 years old that I was finding women more attractive than men. I tried not to think about it, but it was always there. My last year of junior golf, when I was 17, I realized it more. It’s hard because you’re a kid and having feelings that you don’t understand. But who can you tell? I was raised Catholic where the teachings were clear: homosexuality is a sin. My grandparents and parents went to Mass and followed the precepts of their faith, so I couldn’t talk to them. I already knew what the priests would say. And this isn’t exactly a conversation that you have with teenaged friends.

Then when I went to college. I was really confused because I was dating men and afraid to date a woman. I knew I wanted to; I knew by then that I was strongly attracted to women, but at that time there was an inherent fear. A fear of rejection; a fear of discrimination; a fear of being shut out and closed off from the relationships that mattered most to me at the time. And there was, at times, a palpable fear of physical harm. There were still parts of the United States and Canada where you could be assaulted because of your sexual orientation. So, in addition to all the other things a college freshman goes through, I battled all those questions, feeling, and fears.

By my second year in college, I realized that this was no way to live. I had to face my fear and see if these feelings were real. I went out a few times and opened up about my attraction to women. And the sky didn’t fall. My friends remained my friends.

Family was another matter. I didn’t come out to my parents until I was 23 years old. I knew that my sexuality would run headlong into the tenants of their faith. And I wasn’t sure what kind of reaction to expect. To my surprise and a joy that is still hard to express, they both said, “Oh, honey, we’ve known for a while. And we love you no matter what.”

A decade or more later, my sponsors had the same reaction. Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) and Jukasa Radio have been nothing but supportive with my representation and the example that I try to set for them with everything that I do. After I came out officially in the media in 2017, my sponsors were among my biggest cheerleaders.

And when Sarah and I were married

A story that was covered in the New York Times and here at LPGA.com (READ FULL STORY) – we were both overwhelmed by the displays of love and support from friends, family and fans. 

Today, I feel much more comfortable being who I am than I did just six or seven years ago. Sure, there are still pockets of bigotry, places where I feel like I need to keep my guard up. But those are few and far between.

From the beginning, all I have ever wanted was to live my life openly and honestly, out of the shadows. I take pride in having done that. And I hope that my story and the example I set helps someone else. That’s what’s most important. Being an athlete, if I can help one young girl or boy gain the confidence needed to be true to themselves, to live their lives without fear, out of the shadows, that makes everything worth it.

My message this Pride Month is simple: Be true to yourself, whatever your sexual orientation. Life is too short. To try to hide who you are is not a way to live. You cannot imagine the weight that is lifted, and the love you will feel, when you open yourself up to your personal truth.

That is my story. I hope it helps.