Real Athlete is an ongoing series of interviews with inspirational, out gay athletes from around the world. Are you a Real Athlete? Take our Real Athlete Survey.
Swimming in the Windy City is a breeze for Kyle Jackson, a 24-year-old search engine marketing professional. When he’s not at work, he submerges himself with the Chicago Smelts, an LGBT swim team in Chicago.
What’s your team like?
I am participating with the Chicago Smelts. I am the youngest member on the team. We have people in all age groups and skill levels. We are a predominantly gay swimming team located in Lakeview, Chicago. We have a very large team and a decent size group of us planning on participating [in the Gay Games].
What is your goal for Gay Games Chicago 2006? Going for the gold?
Our team hasn’t made any specific goals. I am going to try and win the events that I am entered in and try to break the records in those events.
What impact has participating in the Gay Games had on your life?
After coming out to my family a few years ago while a swimmer at Purdue University, they had a hard time with the news. The one thing they would never sacrifice is missing a swim meet.
In my final semester at Purdue, I sought out the Chicago Smelts because I was planning on moving to Chicago. I heard Chicago became the host of the Gay Games. Over the last two years things have gotten great with my family. With the gay games being near home, there was no way my parents would miss it.
I feel like this event is the final step (and the first “gay” event) in my coming out process to them. This event is combining something they support 110 percent (swimming) with something they support but don’t fully understand (my sexuality). They are very excited about the games. It should be a life-changing swim meet.
How long have you been playing your sport?
Ten years. Swimming was my life through high school and college. Now, I swim as much as I can. There are five practices offered a week. I'll never be able to stop swimming, chlorine is in my blood.
What do you consider your main achievements or accomplishments, whether in your sport or otherwise?
I was Illinois High School 500 freestyle state Champion in 2000. I swam varsity at Purdue University. I qualified for the U.S. Open and Senior Nationals where I placed third in 800 freestyle relay. My team set a Purdue record in the 800 freestyle relay.
What other sports have you've played or play? How did you chose the sport you will compete in at Gay Games VII?
I play lots of things. I love cross country, racquetball and water polo. But swimming was an easy pick. It's always my sport.
Have you been out in your sport? What prompted you to come out of the closet?
Yes, I came out at the end of my sophomore year. I told most of my teammates and friends by the time school started my junior year.
I just couldn’t lie anymore. I was finally comfortable in my own skin.
Interview courtesy of the Gay Games VII organizers. For more information about this year's Gay Games and how you can participate, visit www.chicagogaygames.org.