LPGA's Mel Reid on coming out: 'This is who I am'
Melissa "Mel" Reid originally wasn't convinced that her sexuality needed an announcement. Everyone close to her knew she dated women -- she told her parents after falling in love while competing on a tour as a teenager.
"I fought it for about two weeks once, when I was 21, but that's about as far as it went," Reid said in a phone interview, laughing.
Reid, 31, is a professional golfer on the LPGA Tour. She has a Rolex ranking of 249 with two top-10 finishes and has played in three Solheim Cup competitions as a member of Team Europe. She's a six-time Ladies European Tour winner and is a champion for gender equality in sport. She's also gay.
But, it wasn't until her best friend began to urge Reid to speak publicly about her identity that she even considered it. It took six months of encouragement, but Reid decided to share this part of herself through an interview posted Monday on Athlete Ally's website.
"Honestly, I've always fought for equality and I'm now at a point where I want brands to represent me for me," Reid said. "Ultimately I feel like I'm on a platform where I can have some sort of an influence. It's just important to say to people that this is who I am. Hopefully it will help a couple of young girls or guys."
Reid grew up in Derby, a town in the central English countryside. As a kid, she played soccer and snowboarded. She picked up golf clubs at age 10, when she could no longer play soccer against the boys. She realized that she was pretty good at the sport around 13 or 14 and knew then that she wanted to be a professional golfer.
"I love that golf brings out your true character," Reid said. "It shows your strengths and your weaknesses. It is such a grinding game. When I play well, there's no better feeling."
Reid has been outspoken throughout her career. She considers herself an advocate for gender equality in sport. She participated in the GolfSixes event this year, where women play against male golfers. When she sees inequality, she's quick to point it out. She has to. Despite the support female golfers receive from the LPGA Tour, it can still be a struggle to find support within the greater golf industry.
"I know women's sport isn't as developed as men's, but the gap is so wide," Reid said. "I've asked three big manufacturing companies for clubs this winter and I've been told 'No, they only support men.' That's ridiculous. It's actually embarrassing."
I've just reached a point in my life where I feel like my true, authentic self. If my story helps one person, then I feel like it's a good cause.Mel Reid
There aren't many LPGA players who are out. Unlike other professional women's sports leagues like the NWSL and the WNBA, the LPGA doesn't overtly celebrate Pride Month through social media campaigns or through donating proceeds. That hasn't affected the support Reid feels from the LPGA Tour, but the challenges are still present in more subtle ways.
"We're very well supported on the LPGA, but I'm quite aware that being gay is frowned upon in some of the countries that we play in," Reid said.
There have been times Reid has chosen not to share details of her personal life while at a professional dinner. Sometimes it wasn't relevant; sometimes it wasn't comfortable; sometimes it felt like there could be consequences if she chose to tell the truth about herself.
"I've been very conscious that it would hinder my career from a sponsorship point of view," Reid said. "Now I've reached a point where I'm like 'Why would I want those brands to represent me?' I take what I do very seriously; I like to think that I'm a decent girl."
That mentality led Reid to make significant changes over the course of the year. She changed coaches and representation. In her personal life, she got out of a relationship and moved to a new city. It was a lot of upheaval, but the decisions felt authentic and right, she said. That's what mattered to Reid.
"I've made a lot of changes because I felt that if I was more true to myself and the brands that represented me, it would help me and my career," Reid said.
Even though it took some nudging from a dear friend, Reid is happy to share this part of her story.
"I've just reached a point in my life where I feel like my true, authentic self," Reid said. "If my story helps one person, then I feel like it's a good cause."