The emotional moment a gay hockey player was voted homecoming king

Anthony Arnoni, once terrified to come out as gay in fear of what classmates would think, was crowned homecoming king this school year by his school. (Instagram/Sophia Khudyk)

A hockey player, once terrified to come out as gay in fear of what classmates would think, was crowned homecoming king by his school in Illinois.

Anthony Arnoni, an East Leyden High-School senior, was elected for the royal title by his fellow students.

The 17-year-old shared his experiences of coming out in a touching op-ed in Outsports, where the student-athlete recounted his not always smooth experience of high-school.

“It is the best feeling knowing that the love is reciprocated,” gay homecoming king tells PinkNews

“In that moment when they called my name, all I could think about was how grateful I was that I have such amazing people in my life,” he told PinkNews.

“It is the best feeling knowing that the love is reciprocated. The reaction has not only been unbelievably positive, but it seems to have sparked hope in people that are contacting me.

“The acceptance and fluidity of how normal and protective my teammates are to me has surpassed anything I had ever imagined.”


Gay homecoming king came out thanks to 21-year-old wrestler, Dylan Geick.

Arnoni has played in defence for the Leyden Eagles Varisty Hockey team for four years now.

But standing as the school’s homecoming king, it was a thought incomprehensible to him when he was growing up.

“As I stood there in September with all of my football, hockey and baseball player friends from East Leyden High School,” he wrote in the op-ed, “I was thinking of what a beautiful thing it was that all of those people defied the stereotypical ‘athlete’ attitudes towards LGBT people and how I wish this level of acceptance was worldwide.

“To have this happen just months after coming out as gay was something I could never have imagined and made me reflect on how I got to this place.”

Arnoni said that it was stumbling across a coming out video on YouTube from 21-year-old gay wrestler Dylan Geick that made him realise that he was “not alone”.

Watching the video gave him his “final boost of courage” to come out.

Anthony Arnoni: “It hurt having to lie every time I got asked what girls I liked or found attractive.”

Growing up, loneliness defined Arnoni.

In the Chicago suburb of Franklin Park, known for its thin crust pizza and parks, he felt “mentally separated” from his ice hockey teammates.

At first, he had no clue why. But he realised, overtime, that he harboured “resentment” towards himself and for how he felt towards those of the same sex.

Locker rooms as a teenager became a tense place for Arnoni, where after years of suppressing his feelings, they suddenly surged to the surface. Promoting questions of whether his feelings were “just a phase”.

“Every last millimetre of my head space had been overtaken by anxiety on what I was going to do next,” Arnoni added.

“I didn’t know if I wanted to come out in high school or wait until after. I didn’t know how my friends would react.”

Being the ‘popular kid’ in his school, Arnoni described it only amplifying his anxiety: “I knew that coming out as gay would be news that everyone would know about.”

However, loading up Geick’s video change his life. “I realised that it didn’t matter who was or wasn’t happy about my big news.

“As long as I was finally able to live my life the way I wanted, I had all the happiness that I ever needed at my age.”

All of Anthony Arnoni’s friends and family had his back after coming out.

Arnoni started off by telling a pal over coffee that he was gay. Soon, his parents, and then, the world.

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I am posting this for two reasons; the first reason being to appreciate these four. Without them, I don’t know where I would be right now. They have been the easiest, most caring, and by far the best people through this experience that anyone could have possibly asked for. For all of the progress that I have made within these past two months, I have each one of them to Thank for it. The second reason for this is actually to officially come out. For many years, I’ve been playing a role, or hiding behind, someone who I am not. I have recently been able to proudly, and more comfortably, acknowledge who I am. As I move towards the end of high school and forward in life with the friends, family, and the overall amazing support system that I have, I hope that I will be an encouragement to others just as @dylangeick , and so many others have been for me. No matter where I end up in a few years from now, I hope others who are stuck in the same position I had been for a long time, can use my experience as motivation to get through whatever they may be going through. I want to be able to advocate, and use my voice for others who can’t use theirs. Being as lucky as I have been, I feel the need to help those who don’t have the support that I have been blessed with. Moving on, I am glad that I am where I am and can finally let go of the inexplicable amount of weight that I have had for so long.

A post shared by Anthony Arnoni (@a.arnoni) on

Looking back, Arnoni said: “I quickly found out that all of my friends had my back and continued to stick by my side no matter what.

“My teammates not only accepted me, but have been comfortable enough to carry on as if nothing had changed, which in reality, it didn’t.”

He concluded: “Coming out as a gay hockey player hasn’t always been the easiest thing to do, but I will forever be grateful that I made the decision to be who I am.”
Both in reaction to his op-ed and to his commemoration, friends and fans of Arnoni flooded his Instagram in an outpouring of praise and support.

He told PinkNews: “Not only do I still have my teammates, we have become stronger together in ways that I didn’t know were possible.”

He’s even since had the chance to speak to the man he is so thankful for.

“I have been fortunate enough to have had a brief conversation with Dylan,” he said to PinkNews.

“I thanked him for simply being himself, all the while hoping others can view me just as I had viewed him when I didn’t think I had anyone to turn to.”