Windy City Media Group Frontpage News

THE VOICE OF CHICAGO'S GAY, LESBIAN, BI, TRANS AND QUEER COMMUNITY SINCE 1985

home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2021-12-08
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
Donate

Sponsor


  WINDY CITY TIMES

Jeff Commings: In the swim of things
Special to the Online Edition of Windy City Times
by Ross Forman
2010-09-29

This article shared 6900 times since Wed Sep 29, 2010
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Jeff Commings has done things in the pool that many swimmers only dream about—and he's still a record-setting star at age 36. Just consider his resume:

—Pan American Games bronze medal winner;

—Former USA National Team member;

—Twice competed in the U.S. Olympic Trials;

—Gold-medal winner at the U.S. Olympic Festival;

—NCAA All-American swimmer at the University of Texas; and

—U.S. Masters Swimming World Record Holder.

And his most recent accolade: author.

Odd Man Out: True Stories Of A Gay Black Swimmer was released in May, detailing Commings' teenage years and most of his 20s, when he was afraid to live openly as a gay man among friends and family.

"I am still amazed that it's published. I am astounded that my life story is out there. I can't believe it," Commingssaid. "I'm now more excited than nervous; I can definitely say that, though I will say I was very nervous at this time last year."

Commings' book has been a 10-year process, though mostly a project over the past five years, supported by his partner of six years, Geoff Glaser.

Glaser urged Commings to pen his autobiography, though Commings said he "didn't know if people would be interested."

In late 2008, Commings considered publishing it when he had it finished, "and that's when he thought, 'It's kind of interesting.'

"I thought, if this book got out, I could teach someone about what it's like to be a gay Black swimmer in the United States, which is a very, very rare thing," said Commings, who began his swimming career in St. Louis at age 4.

"I'm thrilled to be able to let people know about a situation that probably is pretty prevalent in swimming, that there are a lot of gay swimmers out there who feel like they cannot be open and honest about their lives to their best friends or their family because society still doesn't accept gay athletes. I'm excited that I'm getting that message out there."

Commings' emotional, flowing journey showcases the swimmer best known for his breaststroke prowess, which earned him spots on several USA Swimming national teams.

"I'm not trying to sensationalize anything or dramatize anything; it's just very straightforward. I'm glad that I stuck to my guns and didn't try to make anything more of a scandal than it was. I didn't write the book to entertain as much as I wrote it to educate," said Commings, who won a bronze medal for the Pan-American team in Cuba in 1991.

Commings' highest showing at Texas was third-place in the 100-meter breaststroke as a sophomore. He ended his collegiate career as an eight-time All-American, USA Swimming National Team member and four-time conference champion in the Southwest Conference. And he earned a journalism degree, fittingly.

"I wouldn't say I'm a pioneer. I would just say that, maybe, I'm the first person who was bold enough to really say who I was," Commings said. "If there's any regret in my life, it's that I wasn't bold enough 20 years ago to do so, or even 15 years ago.

"In terms of writing a book about my experiences as a gay black swimmer, I hope that it inspires other people."

Commings attended two Olympic trials, in 1992 and 1996.

"It wasn't difficult being a Black swimmer," Commings said. "It was difficult being a gay swimmer because you're in a sport that, well, there are a lot of people with insecurities because, one, we're half naked around other guys for hours every day and, two, when the testosterone flows on sports teams—straight teams, not gay teams—the homophobic remarks come out. They may be innocuous at the time; they may seem so, but some are not.

"Of all the difficult things to write about in the book, writing about the time I was afraid to come out to my college teammates, that was the hardest for me. Writing about it really brought back the crippling fear I had through those four years of college. That was a burden, a heavy burden, though I didn't really realize it at the time. If I had, I might have sought counseling or really tried to talk to my coach or tried to find a friend on the swim team who could guide me along, tell me that things would be OK."

In 1999, Commings turned to Masters Swimming—and, of course, he shined. At the 2003 Masters National Championships, Commings won five events and set his first national record. Later that year, he set a Masters World Record. And more records followed.

"There have been gay Olympic swimmers from the United States, but they didn't come out until their careers were over. I totally understand that because I know who they are and know them personally, and understand why they couldn't come out when they were active in the sport," Commings said. "But, in this day and age, I really feel like there should be a lot more support on swim teams, but there is still that stigma, that stereotype.

"I hope the people who don't know me who read the book will take away a sense of wanting to look inward on themselves and say, 'Is there something that I'm doing that is keeping someone from living their lives fully?'"

Commings and Glaser now own the Dolphins of the Desert Swimming Academy in Tucson. Commings works full-time for Swimming World Magazine in Phoenix.

"I don't think [ the book ] will have any bearing on my job; all of my co-workers are supportive of it," said Commings, who anticipates people will approach him more now about situations in their lives. He knows he likely will be the therapist for the masses, whether he truly wants the role or not.

So, has the scene changed much in recent years for gay swimmers?

Not really, he said. " [ Swimming is ] not like diving or figure skating, where there are a large amount of openly gay athletes, or at least known to be gay [ athletes ] within their circles and everyone's fine with it. Since there has not been an openly gay Olympic swimmer in the U.S., I think there is still that stigma of, 'I guess it's not accepted' because there are not any.

"If, as a coach, I knew an active swimmer who was [ gay ] , I would really try to help them feel comfortable with it themselves because I think that's the first step. When they hear [ anti-gay ] comments in the locker room, they don't think that being gay is a good thing, so they don't feel comfortable in their own skin. That's the first step that I would take, to let them know that they have to be comfortable with yourself before you put yourself out there for others. And I don't think a lot of kids do that.

The book is available on Amazon.com .


This article shared 6900 times since Wed Sep 29, 2010
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

Bulls, Blackhawks fall short; 'Hawks reschedule games 2022-01-22
- In NBA action, the Chicago Bulls (28-16) fell short against the defending-champion Milwaukee Bucks (29-19), losing 94-90 in Wisconsin on Jan. 21. Bulls coach Billy Donovan was livid after the game. He was upset about Bucks ...


Gay News

HRC condemns NCAA for failure to protect LGBTQ+ athletes 2022-01-21
-- From a press release - WASHINGTON, D.C. — Late last night, the NCAA ratified (https://www.ncaa.org/news/2022/1/20/media-center-ncaa-members-approve-new-constitution.aspx) its new constitution, which does not include nondiscrimination policy language that had ...


Gay News

SPORTS Bulls end losing streak against Cleveland 2022-01-20
- The Chicago Bulls (28-15) ended their four-game losing streak with a sorely needed 117-104 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers (27-19) on Jan. 19 at the United Center. DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic combined for 54 points, ...


Gay News

NCAA updates trans-related policies 2022-01-20
- The NCAA has adopted a sport-by-sport approach for transgender athletes, bringing the organization in line with the U.S. and International Olympic Committees (IOC), POLITICO reported. Under the new guidelines, approved ...


Gay News

Texas' anti-trans youth sports law goes into effect 2022-01-18
- A new Texas law bars transgender student athletes from competing on school sports teams that align with their gender identity, Houston Public Media reported. House Bill 25 is one of several laws that went into effect ...


Gay News

SPORTS Bulls and Blackhawks both lose 2022-01-18
- Jan. 17 was not a good night for Chicago's NBA and NHL teams. The Chicago Bulls (27-15) lost their fourth straight game, 119-106 to the Memphis Grizzlies (31-15) in Tennessee. After snacking on teams with weaker ...


Gay News

Blackhawks win fourth straight; Bulls lose third consecutive game 2022-01-16
- The Chicago Blackhawks (15-18-5) defeated the Anaheim Ducks (19-15-7) 3-0 at the United Center on Jan. 15. It was Chicago's fourth consecutive victory. There were 73 combined shots between the Blackhawks and the Ducks—the most in ...


Gay News

LaVine injured in Bulls' blowout loss to Golden State 2022-01-15
- The Chicago Bulls (27-13) haven't been together as an entire team in a while because of injuries and COVID-19 health protocols. According to The Chicago Tribune, the latest injury occurred roughly 3� minutes into the Jan. ...


Gay News

Blackhawks beat Canadiens; DeBrincat named to All-Star team 2022-01-14
- The Chicago Blackhawks (14-18-5) skated to their third consecutive win on Jan. 13, defeating the Montreal Canadiens (7-24-5) 3-2 in a game marked by a pre-event tribute to Andrew Shaw, who played for both teams. Dominik ...


Gay News

SPORTS Chicago Bulls lose to the Brooklyn Nets 2022-01-13
- One night after beating the Detroit Pistons by 46, the Chicago Bulls (27-12) lost to the Brooklyn Nets (26-14) 138-112 at the United Center on Jan. 12. The Nets have several superstars on the team, including ...


Gay News

SOCCER Three Red Stars join USWNT's January training camp 2022-01-12
- Three Chicago Red Stars will join the United States Women's National Team (USWNT) next week for the team's annual January training camp taking place Jan. 19-28. Defender Tierna Davidson, goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher and forward Mallory Pugh ...


Gay News

Bulls win by 46; Blackhawks also prevail 2022-01-12
- The Chicago Bulls (27-11) got back on the winning track Jan. 11, routing the Detroit Pistons (9-31) 133-87 at the United Center. The Bulls only led 61-52 at the half. However, Chicago outscored Detroit 36-14 in ...


Gay News

SPORTS Chicago Red Stars see return of Yuki Nagasato 2022-01-11
- The Chicago Red Stars announced a trade with Racing Louisville FC that will see fan favorite Yuki Nagasato return to the club for the 2022 season. In exchange for Nagasato, the Red Stars are sending their ...


Gay News

SPORTS Bears fire Nagy and Pace 2022-01-10
- The Chicago Bears fired coach Matt Nagy and General Manager Ryan Pace on Jan. 10, ending his tenure after the team posted a 6-11 record this season, according to ESPN.com and ABC 7 Chicago. Nagy was ...


Gay News

Bears fall in season finale to Vikings; Bulls' win streak ends 2022-01-10
- —In what was possibly head coach Matt Nagy's last game with the Chicago Bears, the team fell to the Minnesota Vikings 31-17 on Jan. 9. It was a tale of two halves, as the Bears led 14-3 at halftime. The Bears ...


 



Copyright © 2022 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 
 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS







Sponsor
Sponsor


 



Donate


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.