Catholic High School Wrestler Builds Bridges By Coming Out As Gay

Cole Fox is a senior at Don Bosco Catholic High School in Gilbertville, Iowa, where until recently he wrestled successfully for one of the state’s top programs.

He is also an openly gay Catholic whose coming out and commitment to building bridges are inspirations for all who seek to advance LGBT justice.

Until last year, Fox had been relatively private about his sexual orientation, although if asked he would acknowledge being gay. He told close friends and his mother, who told Fox she already knew, but avoided telling his father who “always made homophobic comments” and also happened to be the school’s assistant wrestling coach.

This all changed last March when Fox decided to tell his dad in a handwritten note, which said, in part, according to OutSports:

Any anger, humiliation, sadness, happiness or whatever you’re feeling is completely valid. As far as I know, you have no ties to anyone LGBTQ. I just want you to know that it took me nearly 17 years to accept me. I’m going to give you time and space. You don’t have to talk about it. You can bring it up as much as you wish. You can talk to mom or April. You can completely disregard this letter. I will still love you regardless of what you think or what you do.

His father, Ray, replied in a text,”You are still a great son and I am proud of you.” His father also expressed sadness that he created a hostile environment for his son, saying he loved him no less than before — and that Fox should do the dishes.

Fox displays the same compassion for the Catholic Church that he expressed for his father in the note. OutSports reports:

Most important to him is his hope of bringing together his beloved Catholic Church and the LGBT community. While he personally understands the decades of torment the Catholic Church has pushed on gay people, Cole sees hope in Pope Francis and a new direction for the Church. He says more and more Catholics are opening their hearts to LGBT people as a result. For years he bought into the damaging messages of some in the Catholic Church, but it was on a church retreat last July that he found Catholic Social Teaching. [Cole explains:]

"Catholic Social Teaching is the Church’s teachings of human dignity. We believe that all humans are granted with God-given dignity and there is nothing that can shatter that dignity. It also has a lot to do with where Catholicism stands with social justice and charity in the world. Pope Francis has been very actively demonstrating Catholic Social Teaching and it is awesome."

In a positive step for the church already, Don Bosco High School will recognize Fox for receiving the Matthew Shepard Scholarship to aid his upcoming studies at the University of Northern Iowa, A decade ago the school denied any public acknowledgement to a student who won the same award, according to KWWL 7.

Fox, who hopes to be a teacher someday, is joining the rapidly growing ranks of high school students taking responsibility for justice at their Catholic institutions. In nearby Des Moines, hundreds of such students rallied and prayed earlier this week to protest a gay man being denied a teaching position. A similar movement exploded in Omaha this week, as well, after a gay teacher’s contract was not renewed.

In Fox’s story, a high school student’s actions reveal yet again the hopeful future for our church when it comes to LGBT justice. His words inThe Des Moines Register speak to this as a most fitting conclusion:

I go to Mass a lot during the week. I never hear anything tormenting LGBT people. I hear fundamentals of love and dignity toward all people. I hear about loving people as Christ loves them…This is my chance to show what the Catholic Church means…

As Catholics, I know we are split. There are those that think one way and others who think another…But we are the church. Just because we are younger doesn’t mean we aren’t valid…

I want people to know you don’t have to hide anymore. People need to know they are accepted…You are not alone.

For more information on students’ flourishing actions for LGBT justice in Catholic communities, check out Bondings 2.0‘s “Schools & Youth” and “Campus Chronicles” categories in the right-hand column of this page.

Originally published by New Ways Ministry; Photo via New Ways Ministry by KCJ Photography

Comments (6)

I salute your courage and your compassionfor your father , your school, and for the church. May your leadership inspire others, and may those struggling to be themselves for whatever reason, be encouraged by the gifts you have shared and may we all seek social justice for all who are oppressed. God bless you.

thank you dear Cole, for your bravery and your acceptance of God's man: YOU. You are perfectly and wonderfully made and you are an inspiration to many. Your father's response was wonderful and I wonder: did you do those dishes?

Not that you need to hear this ..I am so proud of you!!! The way you handled everything in such an adult way!! More adults and younger people need to take notes from you!! You are so right.. not everyone is going to agree and thats ok. You don't push yourself on others and you don't let others push their opinions on you!!
We are ALL Gods people and he loves US all!!
Congratulations on your well deserved scholarship and your endeavors to be a teacher!! I'm sure you will be an asset to the students you teach!!!

I'm glad that I read this. Especially the part with the dad. I've recently came out to my mom, who hasn't said anything to my dad. I'm not really sure how to tell him. I have no idea.

My name is Maurice Lesperance and I live in Canada.....Im 61 years old and was baptized a Roman Catholic.....I was married for 22 years and have 2 children.....was torn by addiction for 25 years....and this helped me closet myself.I was raised in the 60s and 70s, it was a very different time....before the bathhouse raids here and the start of the fight for rights...all I ever heard was homophobic comments. It was a very scary time. I finally came out at 9 years sober.....all in my life pretty well knew already...my children accepted me.....however today Im a member of The United Church Of Canada...where all are welcome!!! The Catholic Church needs to understand how many gay people they have lost and are losing from their church. I would love to return to my church of origin, but until they accept us...marry us...I cant do that. You cant tell me you love me but wont accept my lifestyle, that is a contradiction. I to went to Catholic school and an all boys Roman Catholic school. The young man in this article is a brave young man.....wish I had had his courage when I was his age.....however it was a different time. I hope this will make the church open its eyes a little. God Bless

Cole Fox, your story is inspiring for what the future may hold. It's awesome to see an all American guy represent our community with values and dignity. I hope life continues to present you with opportunities to shine and be the beacon that you are, as well as providing you with the privacy and protections that every average person expects. Good luck in life!

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