In celebration of Pride Month, throughout June USTA Florida will recognize those in the LGBTQ+ community whose character and passion continue to embrace our message that tennis is for all – regardless of skill, age, race, or sexuality.
This month, USTA Florida is featuring players of the LGTBQ+ community who describe their experience in the sport, why Pride Month is important, and what it means to be proud of who they are.
For O’Neil McLeod, tennis is all about going out, having fun, and making new friends. While he believes the sport still has a long way to go when it comes to accepting the LGBTQ+ community, he is committed to being vocal and making an impact.
When did you first start playing tennis?
I started playing tennis during my freshman year of high school. I fell in love with the sport in my home country and when the opportunity came, I couldn’t turn it down.
What do you love most about the sport?
I like how tennis really is a lifelong sport and it’s about skill. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from; it’s about your passion for the sport.
What impact has the LGBTQ+ community had on you?
The Pride community has an effect on EVERYONE involved! It’s impacted me by giving clarity on discovering who I am and letting me know I am just PERFECT for this world.
How did the sport welcome you when after coming out?
The sport has a long way to go before we see full acceptance-in my opinion. I’m the kind of individual to own my space and let my skills do the talking. The community is pretty okay, but the stares still happen. I’m saddened to not see a big impact professionally with tennis.
How does tennis help you connect with the LGBTQ+ community?
I’m excited when I’m playing and I see a fellow Pride friend join in on the fun. It shows growth. However, I feel like it’s a slow process, due to the stigma surrounding LGBTQ and sports.
What advice do you have for members of the LGBTQ+ community about getting involved in tennis?
Don’t be afraid! Be yourself and enjoy the game! I’m happy to see USTA Florida put a good foot forward in making it easier for my community to be welcomed.
What would you tell someone in the LGBTQ+ community who is hesitant to come out?
Remember everyone has their season. Once you accept who you are, then the world will. It might sound cliché but it’s the best advice. Anyone will accept you if you can be your authentic self. Remember, you might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but as a wise man once said, “If they ain’t paying your bill, pay them no mind!”
What does Pride mean to you?
Pride means authenticity and community. Anywhere you go, you really have support and I’m glad our community stands by that. We have all been in the same position, been through the same struggles, so we are always there to lend a helping hand.