In the summer of 2012, Dylan Wall spent a lot of time on the road, making the half-hour drive from his home in Brandon to Oak Lake Beach where he worked at the Oak Lake Golf Club.
Blasting Passion Pit’s album Constellations, Wall would think deeply about one thing: when and how he was going to come out.
“All the thinking I did about it was on those drives,” says Wall. “Sometimes I would just sit in my car crying, tired after a late shift and thinking to myself, ‘I need to do this because I need to be happy’.”
During the August long weekend that year, Wall came out to his co-workers, followed by his friends and then his parents.
“No one had an issue with it when I told them, but unfortunately that’s not the case for a lot of people,” said Wall. “My friends were supportive and my parents were too; they were just upset they were the last people I told.”
Wall recently relocated to Kelowna to work with the Living Positive Resource Centre where he is the Men’s Health Initiative Coordinator for the interior of BC.
“My role is to increase the number of community based networks for gay men in the Interior as well as reduce the number of HIV transmissions between men that have sex with men,” he says.
Before moving out of Winnipeg, Wall served as the Communications and Media Director for Pride Winnipeg. Outside of that work, he coached volleyball, specifically the junior Wesman girls club team for the University of Winnipeg.
He also played volleyball for more than six years, including a year with Lakeland College in Lloydminster, AB.
Wall knew he was gay while playing with Lakeland, but hadn’t told anyone yet. T.J., one of his teammates, came out of the closet during that time, and the reaction wasn’t positive.
“I saw the shit that he went through and thought I didn’t feel comfortable or safe in that environment,” says Wall. “Guys on the team and in the crowd would use the word ‘fag’ and it wasn’t meant for anything but to hurt him.”
“Guys on the other team from across the net would say stuff like, ‘watch out for the fag’.”
Wall decided not to go back for his second year at Lakeland College, despite the fact that he had become close with his teammates, seeing them almost as family. It was a decision he made in part because of the homophobic environment of the team.
“I was really depressed a lot of the time because I was struggling being there like that and not having anyone to talk to,” he said. “I was so busy between volleyball and class I didn’t have time to wallow in my despair of being a homo.”
That’s what the drives to Oak Lake gave him: time to think about being happy with himself. Time to think about when and how he was going to come out.
“The drives were so helpful because I could figure out what I was going to do,” he says. “It was a reflective time where I could think about what makes me happy.”
Wall is happy with where he is now, but says homophobia is still a problem that plagues sports and will continue to be a problem until younger gay players come up through the ranks.
“All it takes is one person to come out,” he said. “If there’s a really good 16-year-old [gay] hockey player who comes up, I think it will start to change because people will see that his skill is the same or better than other players.”
This is the 5th article in a series by Stephen Burns on sexual orientation in sports. You can read the other articles in which Burns profiles several gay athletes and examines their journey through the world of sports, by clicking on this link here: Out of the closet and off the bench