Professional poker player Jason Somerville, winner of the 2011 No-Limit, Hold’em event at the World Series of Poker, chose Valentine’s Day on Tuesday to officially come out.
Saying that the shut down of online poker forced him to focus on the “real-life things” that he’d been able to sideline for so long, Somerville wrote in a long and detailed piece on his own blog how he had for a long time been aware of his sexuality and how he is now happy to be open about who he is in his professional life.
I’ve struggled with how to discuss this, with how to balance my desire for privacy with the fact that I do want to be myself publicly — and the fact that I think it’s overdue for a guy to be open about it in poker. I’m no Daniel Negreanu, the royalty of real talk, but I do pride myself on saying what I think and simply being who I am; but I suppose you could say in the past being “truly myself” has come with a bit of an asterisk. Privately, amongst friends, I can say I’ve been doing that for some amount of time — but publicly, and in poker, that hasn’t completely been the case. I haven’t exactly always been where I am now, though, and haven’t really been ready to share my story publicly. Privacy reasons excepted, that won’t be the case any more.
I had put it off for a long time. I always knew I wasn’t straight, but I never spoke a word of it for twenty two years, and nobody really ever knew otherwise. I dated women exclusively through my teens and early 20s, doing my best to convince myself that it wasn’t something I had to pursue, that maybe I’d grow out of it, that I’d be happier with women anyway, that I just should focus on other things. After a lot of struggling and a lot of anxiety, I eventually came out to one of my close friends when I was 22. That same year, the second and third people I came out to were my parents (probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done), from which I basically received the not-exactly-what-I-needed reaction of “keep it to yourself, don’t tell anyone.” I told very few people from then until I was 24 (by the way, my parents are way better now).
As 2011 continued on, and my mindset became more focused on being happy, I pushed myself to make the changes I wanted. I started being more and more open, telling more and more people, and eventually started dating. I became more empowered by the growing personal freedoms I felt as I increasingly was just myself by default, less and less often censoring my thoughts, desires, and feelings. The small personal ‘victories’ piled up, I gained a lot of forward momentum, and the positive changes started to snowball…and here we are now, writing this post. I’m totally open in my personal life, in an amazing relationship that means a great deal to me, and bottom line, I’m honestly happier now than I’ve ever been.
Indeed Somerville, in the post above, mentions fellow player Daniel Negreanu. Negreanu has now posted a video blog supporting Somerville, saying he is “proud” of Somerville and that he thinks Somerville is a good representative for the gay community.
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