Around mid-February I read a tweet from Outsports about a young man from Wisconsin who was, in his own words, at the lowest point in his life. He dropped out of graduate school as he struggled with the anxiety and fear of being gay.
I read the interview by Luke Zoesch and immediately knew I wanted to speak with him. To put this into context, we’ve never met and never talked before. But after exchanging a couple texts and emails we set up our interview time and the conversation started and finished almost as if we’ve known each for years.
Without even meeting Luke, he came across as genuine, compassionate, and someone who wanted to live life with no regrets.
The GM’s Perspective: I’m a regular reader of Outsports and truly admire people for being so open and honest about their life and living how they want to live. What was the main reason you spoke with Outsports and having your story out there for everyone to see?
Luke Zoesch: For me it’s been a long journey of recognizing that when you hide parts of your life and you’re not open in all parts of your life, not only do people not get the chance to know you, but you you don’t necessarily get the chance to know other people.
When I’m being authentic or being vulnerable other people tend to be like that with me as well. I’ve learned that when people tell the truth, even if it’s something that they feel they should be ashamed of or something that they’re proud of, it makes you care about people and love people more.
GMs: After reading your interview, your last statement was one of the most powerful things I’ve ever read.
“The single most important reason I am happy to be gay is because it has challenged me to look at people and see only someone who is deserving of compassion and kindness, even though the world may tell me to see something else.”
After reading that, anyone from any walk of life can feel your passion. Did you ever think your words could have so much meaning?
LZ: I guess not. Maybe that’s some of the reason I finally decided to come out or share my story on a bigger level for a bigger audience. I’ve started to realize that people need to hear those things. People need to see those examples of people who can say “I struggled with this or am still struggling with this” and it’s OK.
The more visible you are about those types of things, the more other people can feel empowered to live their own life and in this instance, come out or share with their family their sexuality and they can do that in their own way.
My life or lifestyle may not necessarily be the same as someone else’s, but they can look at that as “this is my story and this is what it means for me and this is how I can use it”.
GMs: You talk a lot about confidence and your struggle to be confident as a hunter and a gay man. From the outside looking in, what you’ve done and how you’ve opened up to the world shows that you have an enormous amount of confidence in my opinion…
LZ: It’s definitely been a very long journey. I have a lot of mentors and people in my life who have really helped me understand what authenticity and vulnerability means. Something that’s really important to me and what continues to snowball in the world is this devaluation of authenticity. I call it the Taylor Swift complex. There’s this idea that if you’re honest, vulnerable and say how you feel, somehow that makes you crazy.
I want to be confident in saying you are good enough and the more you’re like yourself, the more people are going to want to be around you.
GMs: Friends and mentors have been a huge support system for you. Is there anyone that’s been by your side since day one that you’ve leaned on for guidance or have you had a superior group of friends that have been there day in and day out?
LZ: I have a lot of good friends and one of the people who has been by my side since as long as I can remember is my friend Megan . She was the only person I’d speak to in Kindergarten. I’m 26 years old and she’s been my best friend for 21 years.
I started the process of coming out to my really close friends probably about a year and a half ago, but she actually told me very recently, that this is the first time that she really knows me. That was really powerful to me because I know how much we care about each other and how much we love each other. That was also very scary for me because that’s been a recurring theme I’ve heard since I’ve been living my true life.
My friends have said they’ve always known how much I cared about them and see how passionate I am about our friendships, but there’s always been this part of me they felt they didn’t know. Now they do.
I don’t want to have an unfinished life. I don’t want to reach the end and be that person who says I wish that I would’ve been more honest with people.
GMs: What was that feeling like when you went back out in the woods, a place you missed for so long when there was nothing holding you back?
LZ: It was exhilarating because you recognize all the opportunities that you have now that you are being honest. It was scary too. Once you know something, you can’t unknow it and I think that’s the thing that held me back for so long with being honest.
Once I told my family I was gay and was truly out 100 percent, you are standing there naked so to speak. You give up that control of trying to live a life where you make other people think what you want them to think about you. It’s exhausting trying to do that.
GMs: What would you say to someone reading this that’s in that same place you were in? The place where the other persona “worked tirelessly in the gym on my appearance to make up for what I now know is just a perceived flaw: the gender of the person I will someday have a chance to love.”
LZ: The people who you really want in your life aren’t going to care about those things. The question you have to ask yourself is why do you do the things that you do? I promise you, if you’re trying to create this image so people like you more, those aren’t the type of people you want around.