Nick Nasser had known he was gay since the seventh grade. So, as he listened to a lecture on human sexuality with 150 other boys from his high school senior class, he was one of the few people in the room who truly understood what Mr. Dooley was talking about when he predicted that the captain of the football or rugby team might show up to the class’s thirtieth reunion with a husband instead of a wife.
“I was thinking, Oh my god, you’re right,” Nasser, A17, recalled.
He kept his secret all through high school, but while at Tufts he began to reconsider. A former captain of the Tufts men’s club rugby team, he recently wrote about his coming-out experience for Outsports, a website for LGBTQ athletes. “I wanted to address the difficulty of coming out in athletics,” Nasser said. “Teammates don’t necessarily love you the way your friends and family do, so they’re not going to react the same way.”
Nasser’s path to writing the piece started during his sophomore year at Tufts, when he met Tommy Henderson through a mutual friend. Nasser was smitten: they were both athletes and had gone to the same summer camp as kids, but mostly they just really loved spending time together. For the first time in a long while, Nasser felt truly happy, and he wanted his teammates to know why.
“There are not many out athletes in rugby,” Henderson said. “So it was kind of uncharted territory.” For his part, Nasser worried his teammates might respect him less if they knew he was gay. “But then I thought, ‘What if someone else on the team is struggling with their sexuality?’ I wanted to step in and be a leader and make sure other people were comfortable being who they are.”
Nasser’s friend and teammate Jake Garrell, A18, said the physical nature of the game—coupled with hyper-masculine sports culture—can make coming out to a rugby team seem particularly terrifying: “Nick couldn’t predict how some of the kids were going to react,” he said. So how did they take the news?
“No one missed a step,” Garrell said. In fact, Nasser’s teammates were excited to meet the man he loved. (Garrell and Nasser both credit the inclusive environment at Tufts with making the transition easier.) Eventually, Henderson traveled with the team to the 2017 national rugby championship, where the Jumbos took second place. From the field, Nasser signaled to Henderson by tapping his nose: their gesture for “I love you.”
Since the Outsports article ran, Nasser has received notes from droves of athletes. He’s responded to each one. “I never had a role model,” he said. “If I’m visible, hopefully I can assume that role going forward.” Nasser and Henderson now live together in Boston’s South End, and Nasser is applying to medical schools. “Coming out is one of the toughest things an LGBT person will go through,” he said. “For anyone who feels alone, I want them to know that they certainly are not.”
LGBTQ Resources on Campus For a guide to gender pronouns, health-care info, and more, visit the Tufts LGBT Center at the Bolles House (226 College Ave., Medford), or online at ase.tufts.edu/lgbt.