As part of its month-long coverage of L.G.B.T.Q.+ Pride Month, the New York Times invited readers to submit their stories of coming out during COVID-19, noting, “The pandemic restrictions have provided ample opportunity for some to wrestle with their identities in private. Others have had to shelter in place in environments decidedly less conducive — and in some cases outright hostile — to personal reflection.”
Times Opinion published a selection of the readers’ experiences, including one by Yale junior Izzi Henig.
Henig recounted how he came out as a trans guy to his family, coaches, and teammates in April before posting an announcement on Instagram. He talked about wrestling with what to do about swimming: should he quit? Should he take hormones? Should he finish his Yale career with the women’s swimming and diving team?
“As a student athlete, coming out as a trans guy put me in a weird position. I could start hormones to align more with myself, or wait, transition socially, and keep competing on a women’s swim team. I decided on the latter. I value my contributions to the team and recognize that my boyhood doesn’t hinge on whether there’s more or less testosterone running through my veins. At least, that’s what I’ll try to remember when I put on the women’s swimsuit for competition and am reminded of a self I no longer feel attached to.”
Henig had a big impact on the Yale team after arriving in New Haven from Menlo-Atherton High School and Palo Alto Stanford Aquatics in the fall of 2018. As a freshman, he contributed to two league champion relays and placed 4th in the 50 free, 6th in the 100 free, and 3rd in the 200 free at 2019 Ivy League Championships. The following year he was 5th in the 50, 3rd in the 100 free, and 10th in the 100 fly at Ivies.
Henig was immediately embraced by Yale, whose Athletics Department published their support on social media:
Amazingly PROUD of our @YaleSwimDive student-athlete Izzi Henig for sharing his story with the world.#ThisIsYale | #Pride https://t.co/cPOwTuHUnT
— Yale Athletics (@YaleAthletics) June 29, 2021
Henig admitted that the timing of his announcement – indeed, the introspection and the confronting of identity issues – was affected by COVID.
“If there hadn’t been a pandemic, I’m not sure I would’ve come out during college. I think I would’ve gotten to those questions about myself at some point, but not for a while. It feels like the pandemic did that across many sectors: accelerated the growth or decay of different organizations already trending in that direction.”
Dear Izzi, As Shakespeare wrote, “To thy own self be true.” I applaud your courage to follow that dictum. Aunt Joan