Nathan Novosel admits he was unsure how people would react.
After all, he had kept a secret. He had kept it a long time and he had kept it out of fear. The precise reason he had kept it was because he was afraid how people might react.
"I was unsure," he said last week.
The former Lexington Catholic basketball star had told his family and close friends back in 2012 that he was gay.
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However, it wasn't until June 30 that, as a member of Teach for America, that he basically told the entire world, writing a story for the organization's website about how he had overcome his fears to reveal publicly he was gay and engaged to be married.
"Tremendous," Novosel said. "And overwhelming."
Titled "How I Turned My Deepest Shame Into My Strongest Asset," Novosel told the story of how he discovered in high school that he was gay but kept his true self from his family, friends and teammates for fear it would change their perception of him.
To distract himself, Novosel said he threw himself into numerous extracurricular activities. He was Boy of the Year four straight years at Lexington Catholic, where he was a star on the basketball team, just as twin sister Natalie led the Catholic girls' basketball team before starting on a Final Four team at Notre Dame.
At the University of Rochester, Nathan pursued the double major of political science and economics, joined several religious and political groups, did charity work and started on the men's basketball team. Novosel was chosen captain of the team in 2011-12, his senior season.
It was an event early in his senior year that caused Novosel to take the first step toward revealing his true self. Only that event didn't happen in Rochester. It happened back in Lexington with the death of Dick Robinson, who had served as an agent and a mentor to many local prep athletes, including Novosel.
When Robinson died, Novosel knew he had to tell his family and close friends what he had never had the courage to tell Robinson.
"When I told my family and friends in 2012, so much stress and anxiety that had built up just washed away," Novosel said. "The amount of relief that I felt was unquantifiable. You don't have to think about every single decision you make based on, is someone going to think this or is someone going to find out. That allows so much more happiness into your life."
After graduation, Novosel joined the Teach for America program where he taught third-grade math and science at the Browne Education Campus in Washington, D.C. He decided he would be honest with his students and fellow teachers about being gay. Their positive response gave him the confidence to publicly declare his sexual orientation through the website.
Since then, Novosel has received hundreds of Facebook messages, text messages and e-mails. Many have come from people Novosel knows. Some have been from people he hasn't met. Almost all have been in support.
"I think there are two groups that have really touched me," Novosel said. "Several people that are currently closeted reached out to me privately through Facebook and just said, 'Thank you for helping me see I'm not the only one out there. Your story has really inspired me to come out to my family, come out to my community.'
"That was such an overwhelming response because that was what I was hoping to be able to help people do."
There was also a group that did not necessarily understand, but still offered support.
"Hearing from friends in high school and elementary school that I hadn't had a relationship with or talked to in so long, that reached out to me to let me know that, 'Hey, I'm not sure I still understand completely but let you know that I support you and respect you for just basically living your truth instead of trying to hide.'"
Were people surprised?
"I think the majority of people were surprised," Novosel said. "Some people mistakenly have a perception or a stereotype of what a gay man should look like or act like. I didn't seem to fit a lot of those characteristics. My hope is it will challenge people's thoughts of what the LGBTQ really is about and it's not just based on stereotypes and caricatures."
Novosel still lives in Washington, D.C., where he works as a Teach for America recruiter, primarily recruiting military veterans to join the program. He also met his fiancé, John Eric Lingat, an assistant principal in Washington. The couple plan to be married Aug. 15 in Lexington.
"I was still kind of coming out through the process (when I met John)," Novosel said. "He's been incredible support and guidance for me. He'd gone through obviously the process, as well."
Despite the Catholic religion's objections to homosexuality, Novosel said he still considers himself a Catholic.
"John and I both were brought up in the church and that won't change, regardless of the views the Catholic Church preaches," he said in an e-mail.
"It is sad and disappointing, though, to know that Lexington Catholic, the school I love and adore so much, doesn't accept me or other LC students for who we are. I hope that one day soon they change their stance on LGBTQ students. In the mean time, I hope my story has offered a little inspiration and comfort to LC LGBTQ students who are currently closeted."
He did say he received a note from a "great friend" who is a "staunch Baptist" but also found a way to reconcile his beliefs so that the two could remain friends.
"That response meant the world to me and that's all I can ask of people, to accept me as who I am regardless of their thoughts and beliefs," he said.