How did they know he was gay? Curry wondered. Maybe it was a hair flip he did, or a finger snap, or another harmless gesture that fit a gay male stereotype?
The only response was to run. Some of the boys making fun of him were on another team in the same 4x400 heat. If Curry, now 18, was going to be a pariah before the gun went off, he recalls telling himself, he sure wasn’t going to be one after.
The Titans took second — Curry’s hecklers finished last.
Being openly gay is still something of a rarity in high school. Competing in and finding a sport where your sexual orientation becomes an afterthought is even more rare, especially when the sport is composed of impressionable teenagers. At T.C. Williams, though, Curry has found acceptance, a process that began immediately after the race three years ago when one of his hecklers walked up to him and apologized.
“It just gave me this energy that I didn’t know that I had,” Curry said.
The story of Curry’s race is well-known at T.C., where Curry graduates next week. He has become one of the Alexandria school’s most popular students. He’s the senior class vice president and president of the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance. He ran the German club as junior, became the top business student as a senior and was chief organizer of prom.
Curry is also the captain of the track team, a title he earned not only because he can fly (at 5 feet 8 and 130 pounds, he runs the 300-meter hurdles in under 40 seconds and qualified for the state track meet in Newport News last weekend), but also because at an age when most of his teammates are still unsure of who they are and who they want to become, Curry has answered both questions within himself. He’s had no choice.
Earlier this spring, Curry submitted an essay for a college scholarship offered by Team DC, a local nonprofit working to dispell discrimination in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender athletic community. He opened it by writing: If you were to walk the halls of T.C. Williams High School, and even mention my name, I am pretty sure everyone would say either, “The gay one?” or “The gay guy that runs track?” or “The gay guy that does everything?”
Brent Minor, the executive director of Team DC, says it’s difficult to say how many openly gay high school students there are, let alone how many compete on their schools’ athletic teams. He does know that last year alone Team DC gave scholarships to six students, including one who came to the awards ceremony with his parents, sister and boyfriend.