Live out loud

Coach reflects on being part of LGBTQ+ community

Photo submitted by Kamdyn King
Head Softball Coach Christy Tumilty and her daughter, senior Kamdyn King, at the 2019 Marquette Christmas show.

A couple walked the waxed white floors of the mall as the scent of over-salted pretzels wafted through the air. In the bustle of it all, they held hands without rings as their kids joined the overall commotion, spiraling in and out of the toy stores and ever-distracting kiosks

“Hey, are you guys sisters?” a man loudly asked, his dark tones cutting through the light-hearted atmosphere of the mall.

“No, we’re partners,” one of the women replied.

“That’s not OK, please leave the mall.”

“What’s wrong?” the oldest child, a girl of barely 11, asked. “What’s the problem?”

• • •

Rainbow candies fill the inside of Assistant Athletic Coordinator and geometry teacher Christy Tumilty’s office. A champagne bottle full of M&M’s and a giant candy dispenser take up most of the space on her wooden desk, and a bright red gumball machine sits in the back corner. The fluorescent lights cascade over the array of skittles and jelly beans like a carefully crafted painted glass window.

“When I got my office, I was like, ‘Well, I hope everyone stops by,’ and I knew candy would help,” Tumilty said. “It works. People stop by and get candy.”

Although Tumilty keeps an open door policy for candies, not everything in her life has been so sweet. For more than a decade, she kept her sexual identity a secret from friends and family.

“It’s not like we had a discussion, we just didn’t really say anything about it,” Tumilty said. “I mean, you just keep it quiet. You just don’t live out loud.”

Tumilty has been in a relationship with her partner, Natalie King, for more than 30 years. They met in college in the late 80’s, when gay relationships were viewed more harshly than now.

“Gay marriage wasn’t even talked about. There were so many things that were not even discussed,” Tumilty said. “When I was in high school or college, I wasn’t going to say anything.”

King and Tumilty are both teachers, and the impending security of their jobs also kept them from coming out.

“We were living very quietly, and I’ll be honest, a lot of it was because of our profession, we weren’t sure how that was going to go over,” Tumilty said.

Students, parents and even other teachers were factors in their life of secrecy, uncalculated elements in an unpredictable math equation.

I mean, you just keep it quiet. You just don’t live out loud.”

— Christy Tumilty, Coach

“There was still that fear that people might try to be mean to us about it,” Tumilty said.

Just an hour down the road from Tumilty’s office, Charlotte Anderson Elementary School art teacher Stacey Bailey was suspended in 2017 for showing a picture of her wife to her students. After Bailey sued Mansfield ISD for discrimination based on sexual orientation, she and her attorney were awarded $100,000 in court. Her attorney pledged to donate $10,000 to a non-profit focused on LGBTQ+ student issues.

Tumilty says she still experiences some forms of bigotry, and so do her kids. Her daughter, senior Kamdyn King, has run into some issues in the past regarding her family.

“I’ve heard a couple times that I’m weird because I didn’t grow up in a normal household, or that I will never have a full family because I didn’t have a dad,” Kamdyn said.

According to Kamdyn, one of the most difficult times when growing up with two moms was middle school, as most of her classmates automatically saw images of a mother and a father in their minds upon hearing Kamdyn mention her parents.

“Middle school is when you start to realize all the things you hate about yourself and anything that makes you different is scary,” Kamdyn said. “That was a really big thing that made me different and I was scared to tell people.”

However, Tumilty and her family have never found any real problems in the district.

“[In] LISD, it’s not an issue,” Tumilty said. “It was a concern, but I think a lot of our concerns were self-inflicted, just because we had been living very quietly for so long.”

Tumilty, who is the head softball coach, was named the Teacher of the Year last year. Her softball players are confident in her head coaching ability, and don’t think much, if at all, about her sexual orientation, according to junior and varsity softball player Bella Hernandez.

That was a really big thing that made me different and I was scared to tell people.”

— Kamdyn King, 12

“CT is the type of coach who will always push you to be the best you, on and off the field,” Hernandez said. “I enjoy playing for her and having her as a mentor. She is someone that I deeply respect.”

However, Tumilty admits that she’s had her fair share of homophobic encounters, and so has the rest if her family, but she says she has nothing but forgiveness to offer them.

“Older generations are still trying to wrap their head around it, and I’m not making excuses, that’s just the facts that I see,” Tumilty said. “I don’t want them judging me, so I can’t judge them for not getting it. I just try not to make it that big of a deal.”

• • •

Tumilty came out to her immediate family in small increments. The first step was talking to her sister, who Tumilty knew would be accepting of her identity.

“You just kind of need that support. [My sister] was with me when I talked to my family, and then it kind of trickled down from there,” Tumilty said. “It was a long time before I even told my family, but when I did, there were people in my family who had a hard time with it. Then there were people in my family who were fine with it, they never questioned it, so it just takes some people some time.”

Kamdyn also realized early on that when it came to her extended family, all her and her moms needed to do was have patience.

“Everybody’s family is different, and as long as your family is loving towards you that’s all that should really matter,” Kamdyn said.

The time spent waiting for her family to accept her seemed like an eternity for Tumilty, and she is aware that it may feel like that for others, too. She said that high schoolers in the midst of their journey may just have to wait out their situations until they live on their own.

Everybody’s family is different, and as long as your family is loving towards you that’s all that should really matter.”

— Kamdyn King, 12

“It is hard when you’re a kid, because you’re still under somebody’s supervision,” Tumilty said. “You aren’t a hundred percent independent, and that makes it difficult.”

Even though the risk seemed high for King and Tumilty, they realized that if they were going to start a family, they needed to be open about their sexuality.

“Neither one of us hides anything. Obviously with three kids though you’re not going to hide,” Tumilty said. “What are you teaching your kids if you’re doing that?”

Kamdyn has never thought twice about her parents’ sexuality. As a child, she never understood why people were not always friendly toward the couple, why they didn’t understand the love that was so apparent and normal to her. Though Kamdyn is straight, as a child, she was almost unaware that straight relationships existed.

“I didn’t really know it wasn’t normal until an older age. I don’t think I went over to a friend’s house until I was 6 or 7,” Kamdyn said. “We went and I was like, ‘Who is this man? Where’s the other mom? Why is there a man in the house? That’s not normal.’”

Tumilty recognizes the social stresses having two moms can place on kids, but she and King attempt to shine a positive light on their unique parenting situation.

“We’ve always tried to have our kids say it’s not what they don’t have, it’s that they have two parents. They have two moms,” Tumilty said.

Once she came out, Tumilty said she found freedom in her new lifestyle. It was a new and bizarre feeling for the couple, as they were now able to hold hands in public, something they merely dreamed about for over a decade.

“We could just do what any normal couple does, and that’s be together,” Tumilty said.

However, Tumilty thinks that times are changing for the better and is impressed by the courage of the new generation of LBGTQ+ youth.

“I think kids are braver now,” Tumilty said. “There’s a reason that they’re able to come out to their friends. There’s a little bit more acceptance.”

I’ve never been ashamed of who I was. I’ve never been ashamed of who I love and I’ve never been ashamed of my family.”

— Christy Tumilty, Coach

Kamdyn has also noticed a bit off a generational gap when it comes to LGBTQ+ acceptance.

“Parents have been worse than students, I would say, and just being really rude about it,” Kamdyn said. “Because I think at our age, people are generally tending to be more accepting and generally tending to kind of mind their own business with it.”

Tumilty views equality as not being pointed out for her sexuality, but blending into a crowd with it.

“A person’s sexual identity is just one very small piece of who that person is,” Tumilty said. “I think there’s a lot more to what makes any person favorable, or unfavorable, than their sexual identity. It’s, to me, what kind of a heart do they have, are they kind, are they compassionate.”

For Tumilty, these characteristics are what should be celebrated in any human, regardless of sexual orientation.

“I’ve never been ashamed of who I was,” Tumilty said. “I’ve never been ashamed of who I love and I’ve never been ashamed of my family.”