Growing up in Pennsylvania, Jaden Vazquez fell in love with football. Like his mom, Alycia Otero, he was a diehard Pittsburgh Steelers fan.
“My mom was definitely the one that pushed me to keep going,” he explained. “Football is just something that grew on me. Once I played for so long it just became a part of my life.”
But Vazquez, 20, a junior and football linebacker at Fordham University, held onto a secret until a year ago. In 2019 he revealed he was bisexual to his family, friends and teammates in an Instagram video.
He explained to the Bronx Times it wasn’t easy keeping his true self inside for all those years.
“I finally came to terms with myself and stopped fighting,” he recalled. “I feel emotionally better. It’s not something I think about anymore. I felt like I was living a lie.”
Vazquez explained that seeing other people on campus who were part of the LGBTQ community made him feel more comfortable, so he felt it was finally time.
His sisters were a bit upset that he did not tell them beforehand but understood what he must have been going through. Vazquez said that coming out led him to a new sense of freedom.
“That was very impactful on my life,” he said. “I’m very fortunate that I have a community around me that’s very accepting.”
While he is focused on his major of urban studies and the football season is canceled due to the pandemic, he and other LGBTQ student athletes created a club, Fordham Connect, to form a safe space where people like him can talk and focus on mental health.
It began in June and will hold the first meeting later this month.
Within the club there are three subgroups: one group for all LGBTQ individuals, people of color and women. Vazquez was tabbed the executive leader of the LGBTQ group.
He noted that it is quite common for those who are in the LGBTQ community to suffer inside for years. He added that there is an added layer of difficulty for those who are athletes, because they fear how their teammates will treat them.
“I don’t want people that just identify with LGBTQ to come,” he commented. “I want more people to know sexuality doesn’t have to be the main thing in someone’s life. People should be more open and into the diversity that we see in our communities, college and everyday life.”