The reception with which Anthony Pepe's fellow pro bowlers, as well as many friends and family members, greeted his decision on April 24 to go public with his sexuality allayed the anxiety and fear that preceded it.
"One of the worst fears I had in life was being rejected as a person and as a human being, and, fortunately, it worked out the other way," the 2014 Cheetah Championship winner said in his recent podcast with Bowlers Journal. "I can't even fathom the love and support I've gotten from the PBA guys and even the PWBA girls. I've gotten private messages from Brad Angelo, Lonnie Waliczek, Mark Baker; I've gotten comments on Facebook from Chris Loschetter, Ronnie Russell, Randy Pedersden. It's just a very supportive group."
Pepe is now the second openly gay athlete on the PBA tour; Scott Norton became the first in 2011. In our podcast, he recalls the far darker hours of his life when that support was not forthcoming in the cruel halls of high school where bullies made it so hard for him to accept himself that he was not sure he wanted to live any longer.
"Growing up, I was always hiding this one big thing that I wasn't able to express, not even to my own parents," Pepe said. "Bowling, I guess, saved my life. If it wasn't for bowling, and if it wasn't for the community around the sport, I have to tell you the truth: I probably would not be here right now. That's how much I was hurting back then."
Pepe shares much more with us about his long, difficult, but ultimately rewarding journey to his moment on April 24 when he went public with his sexuality on Facebook. Click below to hear our full conversation.