Love-All w/ Lendale Johnson

Episode · 1 year ago

Love-All w/ Lendale Johnson


Lendale Johnson made headlines as America’s first openly gay professional tennis player. But not everyone saw his coming out as something to be celebrated. Lendale’s sexuality affects his life everyday, on and off the court. And it nearly destroyed his relationship with his mom. Today, Lendale is here to talk about the reality of being an out professional athlete, his family’s journey to acceptance and how his tennis academy inspires the next generation of athletes. 

Be sure to follow Lendale on IG! Your host is Levi Chambers, co-founder of Gayety. Follow the show and keep up with the conversation @Pride. Want more great shows from Straw Hut Media? Check out or website at Your producers are Levi Chambers, Maggie Boles, Ryan Tillotson and Edited by Sebastian Alcala Have an interesting LGBTQ+ story to share? We might feature U! Email us at *This podcast is not affiliated with Pride Media. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit

Straw media. Glendale Johnson made headlines as America's first out gay professional tennis player. Many look up to him as an inspiration, as an athlete who put his career on the line in order to live authentically. I didn't really make that decision, like I I you know, we are who are, so you either accept it or not. Some people choose to come out and some people don't. We all have our own reasons. I just feel like, you know, people just need to live their lives and it's going to be better to be visible. I feel like visibility is so key these days. It's really important, but not everyone saw his coming out story as something to be celebrated. Lyndell's sexuality affects his life every day, on and off the court, and it nearly destroyed his relationship with his mom. I was right after high school. It was actually really hard for me. My mom actually slapped me in my in my you know, my parents on my mom. My mom slapped me when I came out. You know, think about this as a black woman, household, very religious, her only son, and I feel like it was out of protection. I feel like she literally just looks like her like mother way, in a thing to do. But I didn't. I didn't, you know. I mean, I guess I just respected her, but I haveso thought like I needed to restect myself to no matter what, and they my decisions are Incorre as well. So I left home and I ran away. I didn't want to be, you know, in that toxic inside, though, today Lindell is here to talk about the reality of being an out professional athlete, his family's journey to acceptance and how his tennis academy inspires the next generation of athletes. I'm Lindo Johnson, and this is pride. Lyndille is an actor, a model and a professional tennis player in the if pro circuit and the UTR pro circuit. I just think I just love playing tennis, just like a nately, and I found out that there was an opportunity for a career and have a career in tennis and I kind of took those steps to work my way up. His first encounter with tennis sparked from his family's interest in sports. My parents have always been really athletic. My Dad played basketball, my mom was a cheerleader in high school. But while Lyndale's dad, uncle's and cousins would head out to the basketball court, he found himself looking across the way to the tennis courts. So I just kind of gravitated towards towards tenants, and somehow it's become my yea, my whole life now really. Lindella's from a small town, Kalamazoo, Michigan. Yeah, I actually grew up in a tennis town. As luck would have it, Michigan is the home of a national tournament for junior tennis players. It's called the super nationals. The tournament offers winners a direct entry into the US Open. It's like a huge, like beacon of like or, you know, young tennis players that are eighteen or under there looking to kind of get get into tennis and, you know, make a name and crew for themselves. While discovering his love for tennis, Lindell was also discovering something else about himself, his sexuality. But I kind of knew I was gay when I was really little, but at that age don't really put labels on situations like that. I didn't really know what it was. I just knew that was definitely a lot different from the other boards, for sure. It wasn't until after high school that Lindell came out to his family. As he said earlier, at the time his mother couldn't accept him. I...

...did. We for about a week or so and I stayed with the property matter because manager, because at that time we were lipping like a condo and they're like kind of condos in the community and I was just really close to the unproperty manager. I kind of looked up to her as like my God mom and many ways more words than not. So after things kind of cooled down that I went back to my mom's house. But yeah, yeah, that's bad. I feel it was very intense. Lindell grew up in a black religious household. To his mother he had betrayed he but to him, not coming out would be a betrayal to himself. He began to question the morality of his church and he wondered why being gay was viewed as a sin. I believe were religion can really divide a lot of things in this world's and because of that I felt that I need it to, you know, have a change of perspective on all of that. People often cite different parts of the Bible to condemn homosexuality, but for years scholars have questioned whether the Bible mentioned homosexuality at all or if it's all up to interpretation. We know how they say that choose the lesser equal. I really don't like how Christians like to pick things out of the Bible and just use those as tools to really kind of break down, you know, different things, especially in the Lgbtq community. So for like that's very unfair at not right according to the Bible of Sinnisin and send its way to equally Yo and the eyes of God. And when you look at it that way, then it's the Christians. It's the Christians that are actually being homophobic, and not only up to, you know, the things that are in the Bible. So it's likely you're gonna you're gonna, you know, be you know the double standards and all that. It's just it's B S. instead of rejecting his beliefs, Lindell decided to look at it in a new light and I feel like it's been all good. It's been for the greater guard. In two thousand and Seventeen Ryan Vahalli was one of the only out male tennis players, but he didn't come out until ten years after he had retired from the game. So when Lindell came out in two thousand and twenty, he became the first player to come out while still actively playing tennis. Another tennis player who paved the way for women's tennis was billy drinking. When Lindell came out, king reached out to show her support. I literally wake up and I get all these tweets and instagram messages from her and I was I was shocked, like I believe it like into the stay. Those those words are, I think, in my ear. Billy Jean King is an advocate for gender equality and social justice. In her tennis career she won thirty nine Graham Slam titles and if you're not familiar with Grand Slam tournaments, they're the most important professional tennis events. She was very proud of me and she literally was like keep going for its. She's and I mean that's honestly. If I have a bad day, I'll I have to do is think about what billy said to me and I would turn my day around. But yeah, that was you know, I there's no words for that. I'd like that's no words because by so much inspiration motivation now on the court and opt the court literally a yeah, it's huge, look so huge. Yeah, I definitely will remember that moment for the rest of my life. This wasn't the only pro tennis player to reach out to Lyndale. I spoke with Martin Ratchalova before I came out few years ago. Martina Novtalova is considered one of the best tennis players of all time. She came out as Queer in one thousand nine hundred and eighty one. During the early stages of her career, though her own coming out was not planned, she encouraged Lindell to share his truth. We have private DMS on...

...twitter and she thought it would be a good idea for me. So she did help influence me to come out. She's got to be great for not only tennis but for the sport in general, and she also said that more players should should do it. So this is a question that I actually ask a lot of athletes and I'm not x, I'm not. I don't want you to out anyone, but in your experience in professional tennis, are there more closeted queer people playing the game? There's a lot. There's a lot and I feel like, again, to each its own and it really can't be force. I'm just hoping, you know, me and other athletes that are coming out, it'll just will. We're just helping to pave the way. Recently, Carl Nassaid became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. So many players and teams reached out on social media to share their support, and the NFL even posted a video following NASIP's announcement with the tagline football is gay. That's his stream making. So as long as we keep doing things like this, I think it would just give all the other athletes more more of a comfortable worlds to come out. But even with these players making waves for professional sports, there's still a lot of homophobia in the world. But I mean it getting you here of all these hate crime that would be just if you hate times and the news, which is very scary. You know, with me I have to worry about being at the wrong place of the wrong time. What was your experience like when you take the court as a tennis player? I know that you've eve encountered a lot of homophobia professionally as an athlete. Yeah, you know, I had training last summer and there were some Jimmy contens players. I was doing a charity event, volunteering my time for poppy tennis. It's a test club here in New York. They kind of get together and play tennis here in Brooklyn, and the Jamaican players were very homophob I g h like bags are here, why are they here? They're taking over a court. Super Homophobic and I felt I had to say something. So I was not cool. I literally had a player Walker past me and say like get away for me, faget and things like that, and it's like, look like, I have a training in a few minutes. I don't think to you worried about what people are saying about me. I need to be focusing on my tests. And that's when you have to really be a build a strong, like a mental, really strong mental shield, and just kind of block all that stuff out. And it's unfortunate that that. You know, it's twenty two, twenty two, thousand and twenty one, but did happen laster? Ye, but I'm sure those those same people and still those sports, but it's sad that people still have to do with that. Even me was the act of coming out. I think a lot of people think, you know, they're really scared about losing their career, really like that. That's a big deterrent and losing sponsorships and money and and all of those things. Was Reality as scary as athletes perceive it to be? I don't think so. But I mean, you know, we are in a heederal, normative, you know, world, and I feel like that can really cause a lot of issues as far as like the fan base. Right. So if we have, you know, an athlete that's famous and you know all these women are like Gosh, you ober him and thinking that the athlete is straights and then comes out it's gay, I feel like he could lose fans, a lot of fans, but then maybe they weren't really true fans right. So I feel like it would be good and bad, you know. So you just had to just kind of way the pros and cons, but it's like if they can support the player being openly gay and maybe they weren't your true fan from the get go.

I like to look at the PAT way. When we come back, reconciliation with family and the Johnson High Performance Academy. Welcome back. Before the break we talked about Lindell's coming out and the pushback he received from both the sports community and his family, but he found a light at the end of the tunnel in the messages he received from young Lgbtq people. I had a ton of messages on social media. People have reached out and cried and said that. I'd say that what I've had. Someone said that they were going to commit suicide and that somehow I helped them. Again, this is some of that. I've never met. They were just following me online. So I feel like I do have a very powerful role in helping not only you know, people in general, but the Lgbtq you know you as well. However they want to identify. Lindell said, sometimes the weight of his reach and his accomplishments will hit him all at once. I was spending. I really showed you some Justin love at the US Open. We were we just had passed Arthur as stadium. The Ust a just granted me permission to film and and so my show as well, as you know, do the front shoot feature for attitude magazine, and while we would do all that, I literally was just like wow, this is this is real, like this is really happy right now, like I didn't know what to think. I was like just felt very, very surreal. Felt very surreal. I was just really just wow that wow, wow, I'm out, like a big wow moment for me. And who better to share those accomplishments with then family? But after Lindell came out to his family, there was a time where he wasn't sure if he would ever have a relationship with his parents. Yeah, I would definitely say why when she's beyond slapped me in high school about you know, I had a lot of Yo dark thoughts for a minute. But since that time after high school, Lindell said his mom has had a change of heart. She's more active on facebook now and she's always saying I'll proud she is of me publicly, which is really nice. I she appreciates everything I do. Now she's like one of my biggest fans and her support goes beyond just tennis situation. would be like my ex boyfriend, for example, and I, you know, we're together and stuff, and my family had invited us to my cousin's wedding and Michigan and at that time I was seeing him and my mom had like a complete change of heart. She had my boyfriend to her are actually and we all went to the wedding each other. So that was like definitely like will circle, like, you know, having my boyfriend with me, with my family, you know, in public. It was a it was a really big deal and I was as very happy, or even my dad. I feel like this sch process my dad has. I've been kind of close with my dad also. Yeah, I just feel like it's just tough. You again, in the black community, you know dealing with, you know, the homophobia and and like, and thus the religious background. Lindell said it can be difficult for lgbtq plus people to feel accepted by other communities because of three main dynamics religion, homophobia and toxic masculinity. So I've all three of those aid and in that situation and I feel like people need to be taught that an early age that sexuality should not,... does not damp in an athletes capability in sport, and I just feel like even just in America and general, you know, US black people have really been looked up, as you know, stronger, fast or more athletic, and I feel like as a community, we we take that to heart and I don't want to speak for everyone, but I feel like we have a lot of the top athletes in the will are black and I feel like America knows that and, you know, we want to keep keep that going, I guess. So I feel like when you have the idea, anamic of being black and game and an athlete, professional athlete's I feel like maybe there's fear of fear of possibly putting putting negativity into that, or maybe you know that that whole pillar that we have, you know, maybe lowering it and and I feel like that's that's something that people perceive. It's not true. I feel like it's an illusion in just because you know, someone identifies as I was retq and or black athlete, it's not going to lesson the things that we've done in our history as black athletes. If anything I did, it adds to it. It doesn't take away from him. So there's a stereotype for what a blackmail athlete should look like. They're hypermasculine with broad shoulders and their game face is always on. But Lindell doesn't fit that quota and he doesn't try to. But I just actually got my nails painted for pride. You can see them here. I got my ost pay for prikes. The first time I've ever had my nose painted and I just felt was very liberating to do that and I feel like, you know, I can express my feminine energy whenever I want when I'm on the court, playing tennis or off the court. That doesn't represent me, know, it does has nothing to do with my performance on the court. Like I could be very feminine and liked a turtle or something after winning a point and I can do whatever I want. It's all about the performance on the court. Should not have to do with the mannerisms. For me, it's I'm going to do what I want in the moment. I don't think about anything about my my you know, initial reaction. My last tournament I've hit too backtoback winners during the game for and winner, back and winner, and each time I like yelled outs come on, it's pumped and I was just in a moment and very really just come to myself up and I feel like when I did that, I feel like, you know, sub masculine energy did come out of out of me in that moment and it felt good to be, you know, aggressive like that. But then at the at the end of the day, that's really that I leave that all that on the court. You know, this all feeds into another stereotype. Athletes Face to act how your gender should act while on the court. But this affects more than just the LGBTQ plus community, the toxic masculinity and the world sport, and especially in America, you know, with with men really you know the bill standard, with many being able to be very vocal and aggressive and really outspoken with their wins. Lindell references Serena Williams as an example. In two thousand and eighteen Williams was fine seventeen hundred dollars for arguing with the chair umpire at the US Open. And Serena Williams does her out first, the press seems to get really on her. But yet but then in tennis and the meends for we can be very aggressive and outspoken and and we probably most likely won't won't get...

...find or we won't get, you know, a huge a big penalty. So I feel like that's an issue as well. In addition to playing pro tennis, Lindel is the director and head pro of the Johnson High Performance Tennis Academy, a tennis school based in New York. I can say I'm really proud of my tennis academy. We've had so many inquiries, you know, being an LGBTU and black owned business. We've had over at twelve thousand who site last month and people calling and reaching out. So it goes great. You know, building the umpire and you know, you know the tennis academy and and representing America. The academy is Lindell's way of preventing young athletes from giving up their dreams before they've even begun. I don't want the world to impress itself on, you know, these ogbtq athletes or anyone in general, if it is negative, no matter what their goals or dreams are. I want people to kind of stay and that dream, happy vibe and not let the world kind of damp in their spirits with all the hate and different things that are going on right now in the world and right now with the stance kind of we do have a day's Children's Day. We do have a children's Day camp right now that's going on and these kids are very young and I'm very proud and honor that their parents are allowing me to work with them weekly and teach them about tennis and how to be, you know, young little champions and really just grow without any without any boundaries about who they want to be or how they act or anything like that. So many of the people we interview on this podcast we're never exposed to queer culture growing up, which is another reason Lindell's academy is so important. Kids need to know that people comment all different shape, sides, colors, you know, everything. So it's huge, like I don't want people, I don't want the kids to see color, I just want it to be Oh, this is like a rain, because kids are just so like they're so magical, you know. There they haven't been like their spirit and soul and like that hasn't been painted by by the world. So when they have something to say or if they have questions about things, it's most likely they're just being honest and saying what they they're just curious, you know. So I've learned. I've had kids ask me. I actually used to work as the teacher for a couple months here in Brooklyn for an elementary school and I did have several kids asked me if I was if I was male or female. If my why is my voice like this or like that and I just said to tell them that I'm bycho was some sometimes guys have hired voices, sometimes we have deeper voices, sometimes women have, you know, deeper voices, and sometimes I don't. We all have different voices and they're okay, you know. So they just need to know, they need to be educated. So really that I see that as a great opportunity for you to not only expose kids to diversity but to also kind of change the narrative in sports around. Like you can be queer and feminine and very good. That is very true. Yeah, but I play my matches, I usually my hair's going to pretty long. It's about down to hear, but I didn't do it this morning. So we're going through a by the way, we're going through a heat way right now in New York, so there's no way I was gonna Flyer and press my hair out. Just too hot. But yeah, you know, I openly wear my when you tell to back, you know it's I love it.

I love it. I feel like it gives me, makes me look more but I feel free my hairs out of my face and it's a really nice traditional look. If lindella could offer any advice to young people it would be to be more inclusive. Start Jorge judging others. I even caught myself judging someone the other day and I had to take a step back and say, okay, like Lindell, you don't know this person, don't, don't think things like that. You know, you don't know where they're going through, you don't know anything about their eye and I feel like nowadays it's just so easy to judge people, especially on social media, digital age. It's I think people really need to be just open to learning about others instead of haven't at that instant like judgmental thought. To stay connected with Lindell. Well, all right, social media accounts are all branded now, so everything is Lindell Johnson. So I call my at symbols for like twitter, instagram, facebook, it's at Lindell Johnson. And Yeah, that's pretty much hell. Everyone can tell me. I do have a news letter on my website that people can subscribe to. We have updates about our different celebrity interviews that we do produce. A love it's my show that will be airing on my birthday on Amazon prime and we kind of have giveaways as well. So there's little things here and there that we update the news letter on Lindell's upcoming project. Uses in love is a reality show coming to Amazon prime. It will feature interviews with celebrities like billy porter from pose and more. For a sneak peak of the show, you can check out Lindell's instagram and our season one will premiere on August train pork, which is a good day. Well, happy early birthday. Will definitely tune in. That's very exciting. Pride is a production of Straw hut media. If you like the show, leave us a rating and a review on Apple, podcast, spotify, wherever you're tuning in from. Share us with your friends and be sure to follow us on Instagram, facebook and twitter at pride and tune in weekly for new episodes featuring amazing queer people. If you'd like to connect with me, follow me everywhere. At Lea by chambers. Pride is produced by me Lea by chambers, Maggy Bulls, Ryan Tillotson and Caitlyn mcdaniel, edited by Sebastian all Calla and Daniel Ferreira. Sound mixing by Sebastian all Cala. Yeah, I think what they call back on looks the word people say there they're on a hiatus. You know, I yeah, I mean I it is abbatical. Definitely.

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