LGBT activist and swimmer talks personal acceptance, LGBT athletes


Nathan Richards/Daily Senior Staffer

Swimmer Michael Holtz addresses students at Annenberg Hall Thursday night. Rainbow Alliance sponsored the talk by Holtz, who is openly gay, as its Spring Speaker.

Jordan Harrison, Assistant Campus Editor

More than 30 individuals gathered on Thursday to hear Michael Holtz, an openly gay swimmer and LGBT activist, talk about the “reinventions” in his life and LGBT issues in athletics.

Holtz, who was Rainbow Alliance’s Spring Speaker, began his talk by describing his life in high school in Naples, Florida. He said although he was very active and successful in high school, he didn’t feel happy with his life.

“People would accept me not because I was gay and successful, but rather they would overlook the fact that I was gay because I was successful,” Holtz said.

Holtz came out in college at Fordham University. After college  he went into finance. However, he said he found that his real passions were philanthropy, sports, networking and the LGBT community. He founded his own company called MKH2O Productions, which raises money for LGBT organizations through sporting events. Holtz said his company raised more than $1 million for LGBT causes in two years.

Holtz was named as Compete magazine’s 2010 Athlete of the Year, and he was also named as Mr. Gay USA in 2011.

One student asked Holtz whether coming out in swimming was different from coming out in other sports, to which he replied it depends more on the people you are surrounded by than on the particular sport.

Weinberg junior Peter Cleary, co-president of Rainbow Alliance, said the group chose Holtz as its spring speaker partially due to a recent dialogue about LGBT athletes.

“We think that something that’s going on a lot right now is discussions about LGBTQ individuals in sports,” Cleary said. “A lot of high-profile athletes are coming out, which is, we think, important, and it’s important to take part in that discussion.”

Cleary said Holtz’s points resonated with his experience.

“I think his view of coming out as a reinvention of himself and an extension of being true to himself is very apt,” Cleary said. “It’s been very true to my experience and I think it’s a generalizable experience for a lot of people who are LGBTQ.”

Communication senior Cory Slowik said that though she didn’t know a lot about sports, she still enjoyed Holtz’s talk.

“I have very little interest in sports or the Olympics or really that sphere, so I wasn’t sure if I was going to come today, but I’m glad I did,” she said. “It’s nice to hear success stories.”

Throughout his talk, Holtz emphasized staying true to yourself and actively engaged with the audience. Toward the end of his speech, Holtz stressed to the students in the audience that change and activism were in their hands, citing a campaign for acceptance of LGBT athletes at the University of Notre Dame.

“I think you guys are in a really awesome time right now where you guys, whether you think so or not, you can make a direct impact on your campus,” he said.

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