Pro Golfer Tadd Fujikawa on Coming Out and Finding His Hole in One
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PRIDE

Episode · 3 years ago

Pro Golfer Tadd Fujikawa on Coming Out and Finding His Hole in One

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The year is 2006. Twitter launches. Lance Bass comes out as gay. Pluto is no longer a planet. Hannah Montana debuts on the Disney Channel. And Tadd Fujikawa becomes the youngest person to qualify for the US open. The world of pro golf has never exactly been a beacon of diversity. The fact that it wasn’t until last year that Tadd became the first male pro golfer to come out as gay is evidence enough. Today, we’re talking to Tadd about the ups and downs of playing professional golf, what it was like to come out, and how his relationships with his family have changed since then. And we’ll hear what the queer dating scene is like in Georgia. Spoiler. It’s not ideal. Be sure to follow Tadd 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 strawhutmedia.com. 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 lgbtq@strawhutmedia.com. *This podcast is not affiliated with Pride Media. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Straw hut media. The year is two thousand and six. Twitter launches, landspass comes out as gay, Pluto is no longer a planet, Hannah Montana debuts on the Disney channel and Tad fujikawa becomes the youngest person to qualify for the US Open. The world of pro golf has never exactly been a beacon of diversity. The fact that it wasn't until last year that tad became the first male pro golfer to come out as gay is evidence enough. Today we're talking to tad about the ups and downs of playing professional golf, what it was like to come out and how his relationships with his family have changed since then, and we'll hear what the queer dating scene is like in some parts of Georgia. Spoiler alert, it's not ideal. I'M LEA by Chambers, and this is pride. What do you see when you picture a Pro Golfer? An old white man, maybe a Republican, Polo shirts and Khaki Pants. My guest today is a Golfer and even though you'll see him on the green in his khaki's and Polos, he isn't just any Golfer. Hi, my name is Tad Fuji Cowa. I am the second youngest person to compete in the US Open and I am the third youngest to make a cut on the PGA tour. I am the first openly gay male professional golfer. Tad was just fifteen years old when he competed in the US Open and even though a few years later someone younger qualified, at the time he was the youngest person to accomplish that. Six months later he made the cut at the Sony Open in his home state of Hawaii. At that time he was the youngest person in fifty years to make the cut on a PGA tour. Then in the summer of two thousand and seven he went pro. So I was sixteen when I turned pro and you know, it was a great experience. I had had a lot of opportunities to play in tournaments all over the world and and to meet a lot of different people from different backgrounds and it's been it's been a great journey. If you're not familiar with golf, the PGA tour organizes the main pro golf tours throughout the US and North America. Since Tad came out publicly last year, members of the PGA tour have been actively working to be a little more vocal about the diversity in their ranks. During pride month this year they featured interviews with other gay golfers like Greg Fitzgerald and Chris Noble, about why LGBTQ representation matters in pro golf. But this development is pretty new. Tad chose to come out on world suicide prevention day in two...

...thousand and eighteen after battling anxiety and depression for years. So I still go for a long time with my sexuality. I probably when I was about sixteen, seventeen, you know, that's kind of when the thoughts started started creeping in. Obviously I was very occupied with with golf and traveling and everything like that, so it was very easy for me to kind of push, push that issue aside. And then when I finished high school I moved to Georgia. I was eighteen, and when I did that that's really when I started figuring out kind of who I was. My mom moved up with me and after a few years of being up here, you know, I came to terms with with who I was and two thousand and fifteen I came out to my mom and it was it was tough it was tough. I really pushed a lot of it aside. I didn't you know, I didn't really want to admit it and but overall it was it was a long, long process for me to to accept who I was and at the end, or probably beginning part of last year, I knew that I needed to come out and I was just kind of waiting for the right time. And about the middle of the year I wrote in my notes in my phone, my phone, kind of a long leg coming out message and it basically stayed in my phone for like a month or two before I actually had the guts to post it. But at that time, you know, when I came out, which was September, you know, I was just at the point where I was just ready to do it and I felt I felt okay with myself, and that was kind of a big part of it. I had come out to my family, the rest of my family, just like an hour to prior to posting that on social media and and once I did that and and kind of had their support and acceptance, I felt like that's all I needed. I didn't really care about anyone else or or what their opinion of me was. So when I posted on social media. My family didn't really want me to, but I felt like that was that one that was a part of my way of giving back and I just wanted to help people that were in a similar situation because I know for me how difficult it was and and I know, you know, when going through my lowest times, how much seeing...

...other people, you know, be authentic and visible, how much that helped me get through my toughest times. And you know, I wanted to be be that for other people and to to be able to help help them as well. Everyone's coming out story is a little different. Sometimes it's easy and sometimes it's not so easy. As we move into a more inclusive future, we start to wonder will we get to a place in society where queer public figures no longer need to come out? I just feel like, you know, we feel the need to come out and because because we view ourselves as as wrong or different, and I feel like that's that shouldn't be necessary. You know, I hid my sexuality for a long time because I was afraid and I didn't know what people would say. I didn't want anyone really to think negativity of me, and and that's, you know, I think when coming out, that that was like a scary part of it. You know, I feel like we need to get to a point where coming out isn't a thing and it's not needed and we can just be us, we can be who we are and we can love who we want to love and and that's it, you know, you know, when you see straight people you don't like, they don't have to come out. So what makes us any different from them? And for me that that's the biggest that's my biggest issue with coming out and I don't know if who ever get to that point, but I sure hope that, you know, we, we as a community can just be accepting and and supportive of each other, regardless of of our sexual orientation or, you know, sexual preferences. And you know, that's my hope. But, like I said, I don't know if we'll ever get there, but but I hope you can, because I feel like everyone deserves to have that opportunity and to not be afraid of being being our self. For now, we can know that when people liked had come out publicly, especially in industries historically lacking diversity and inclusion, people, both young and old, throughout the country are inspired, and looking at the life and career of Tad Fujikawa, it's easy to be inspired. Not only is he the...

...first openly gay male Pro Golfer, but he's also open about his struggles with mental health. You know, from two thousand and eleven, basically for about five, about six years, I just really struggled with with my golf and my mental health and it just it really it was really a tough time. You know, twenty one thousand, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen sixteen was was really really difficult for me. That was probably my lowest times as far as my career. I wouldn't say a specific specific time, but that period was was really difficult for me. I went through I went through a lot of a lot of stuff mentally. That that that I had to work through. It was it was tough. I had a had kind of a mental block as far as my golf and I couldn't like I couldn't physically hit the ball. So I I would like try to swing and I would get to the top of my swing and I would like freeze, like I couldn't I couldn't swing down. A lot of people don't really know that, but I went through that for like for a couple of years. But Tad made it through. In two thousand and seventeen he had his first win in seven years at the Hawaii State Open. Woods, you call, who's been living in Georgia for the past few years, found success again back here in the eightway. Tad became the youngest golf for ever to qualify for the US Open back in two thousand and six at just the age of fifteen. This week joined some whole elites like Dean Wilson, Kevin Hayashi and David is she as multiple Hawaii state open winners. That was something that, you know, I knew for me personally, if I made it through that, you know I can get through anything and it was tough but um, but after you know, coming through you know, going through that and then coming out on top in that that tournament that I played in and one, you know, it's very, very gratifying just to know that to see where I was at a certain point and and to know that Hey, I still you know, I still got it and you know I had a lot of self doubt and a lot of fear, but but yeah, I mean it was that was probably one of the most most meaningful moments of my career at the time. I mean it was it was pretty special. A lot of people still remember that and it's always nice, you know, when people bring that up, because obviously it's good memories for me. In a minute we will hear more about two aspects of Tad's personal life. On one side, his relationship with his parents and, on the other, his dating life. Let's start with parents. Tad...

...has a very close relationship with his mom and she has been and continues to be a source of support in his life. Coming out to her was a big step and it was long overdue. Yeah, yeah, it's you know, it's funny because it's always been. She's always been with me, like ever since I was a little kid. You know, we've always done stuff together and she's always, you know, I've always been able to just talk to her about everything. And then, like with my sexuality, it was like really, really difficult to tell her anything and I just like shut down for a long time. I didn't want to tell her anything and and I felt like I couldn't, you know, and after coming out, and even even after coming out, it was really hard, like I didn't I didn't talk to her about anything, like anything about my sexual you know sexual life or, you know, dating or anything like that. And you know, it was really hard because, like I wanted to tell her because she's like, you know, my best friend. I'm always with her, but but it was hard and recently it's been been getting easier and she's always been, you know, one of my biggest supporters and and I know for a fact that without her being here with me, I wouldn't I wouldn't have continued golf. I don't know if I ever would have came out in the way that I did. And and yeah, I'm just I'm just thankful for for having her, you know, my life through tough times with his father as a child and the ups and downs of a professional golf career. She's been there basically until I was eighteen. Yeah, about eighteen, my dad had used and Sol drugs and he was around, but he was not around. So he was kind of in and out of my life, of our life, my mom and I. Honestly he was. I think he was as good of a father could be given his situation. But but that really had a lot to do with with who I was and you know, I hid, I hid that part of of me and my life through my successes and that was kind of my driving force for being being a good kid and and and being being a good person and and trying to, I guess, trying to...

...show the world that that that, you know, I basically that didn't that didn't affect me and no one really knew about it until all of that stuff came out in the news. But but now I hid that part of myself for a long time and, you know, I used, I tried to be perfect to hide that and I did a pretty darn good job of it, you know. You know, had a lot of success and no one really really knew about it, even though their relationship is complicated. Tad said that coming out change things for the better. You know, is funny. I've always felt like there was a wall between us, I think mainly because we never saw eye to eye on a lot of things and and I had a lot of resentment towards him, you know, just for putting my mom and I threw, you know, a lot of the the stuff that that comes with with with drug use and stuff. But it was it was really nice, like he was very supportive, very accepting and when I came out, I felt like this wall between us just kind of just kind of was broken down like instantly. It was really it was really strange. I mean I wasn't with him in person, I called him over the phone and and told him, but it was like since that time of coming out, I just I felt like so much more open with him and I think he's been so much more open with me as well, and our relationship has gotten it's taken like a total turn, like a one hundred and eighty and it's insane how different it is. You know, how we're able to talk about things and obviously we don't see eye to eye on a lot of things still, but but for the most part it's gotten gotten way, way better. After High School, Tad moved to Georgia to continue pursuing his golf career. The cost of living was low, it was easy to travel, his golf instructors were there and there were a lot of tournaments. When he moved to Georgia in two thousand and nine there were plenty of good reasons to choose the peach state. But since then one thing he hasn't found in Georgia is a large Lgbtq community. So I had read that you hadn't dated anyone when you first came out. How has that been? Actually, I have. I've dated, like I dated before I came out like publicly, but it wasn't like nothing was really serious. At a couple of like short term relationships and but other than that, like haven't really dated hardly at all and even since coming...

...out haven't dated too much. I don't know. I think it's a part of like my lifestyle and it's also like a part of where I live. Like I live kind of in a part where there's like no gay community. So it's really difficult and it's been tough. I mean I do want to like get into the dating scene, but at the same time I don't want to like force myself into it, you know, I just kind of want to let it come to me at this point because I'm just tired of like trying. So I don't know. My I I'm taking it as it comes, but I don't know. I may have to move soon because where I live is not not ideal for that. So yeah's not dating in anyone right now. Um, no, not really. It's it's it's been pretty it's been a long winter. Dating can be tough no matter where you live, but living in the south adds a whole new layer of difficulty. So I'm still a virgin, but I consider myself like half a virgin because I've done like some stuff, but I just haven't done like all of it. So I don't know if that counts because I don't know. So I consider myself like half because I've done like oral but I haven't done like intercourse. So that was very uncomfortable, but you made it through it though I'm still alive. So honestly, I've waited this long and the hookup thing is not really my it's not I don't I don't enjoy it like I don't. I don't like the feeling of it. So I just that's just not my things. So I'm hopefully I can just like someone can just come out of nowhere and just sweep me off my feet and then that would be like my fairytale ending, but I'm not holding my breath on that one. So you're waiting for prince charming. Okay. So so if there's any like takers out there, like hit me up on like any of my social media accounts, because it's all it's fair game right now. So, listeners, you heard it here, slide into those DMS. Yes, please do, please do. Yeah, so instagram or twitter is good, awesome. Well, thank you so much for chatting with us today. No, thanks for having me. Was it was very it was very fun and I may have shared a little bit too much about my personal life, but it's okay. I have a feeling people are going to slide into your dams. So there you go. Who knows, maybe you're out there listening from Georgia and you want to shoot out a message on instagram. I'll write a little eating profile for him right now.

Tad Fujikala, age twenty eight, Amazing Golfer, strong family values, super cute and low key changing the world. Thanks for listening. Pride is brought to you by Straw hut media. If you like the show, leave us a rating and a review on Apple Podcast, share us with your friends, subscribe and all that good stuff. You can find us all over your socials, instagram, facebook and twitter at pride. You can follow me at lead by chambers. Pride is produced by me, lead by chambers, Maggie goals and Ryan Tillotson, edited by Sebastian Alcohol.

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