Opinion | Where credit is due: Justice Horn

Who is Justice Horn?

Horn, a recent transfer student to UMKC from Northern State University in South Dakota, has quickly made a name for himself in his four months on campus.

After a short tenure as a Student Government Association (SGA) student senator, Horn recently was elected as the next SGA president.

Tall and solidly built, usually dressed in a full suit, Horn is a whirlwind of activity around campus. The president-elect has involved himself in numerous student groups, from the College Democrats to Fossil Free UMKC, and can be seen at many student events. In a campus known for an anemic and uninvolved student body, Horn is the exception to the rule. He has inserted himself directly into the heart of UMKC, spreading his network and entrenching himself as a fixture in the student body.

When asked why he dedicates so much of his time to networking and working with fellow students, he has told me numerous times, “I want to be here for you guys.”

His drive and ambition are evident to anyone who knows him. As indicated by his lightning-fast rise to the SGA’s top spot, Horn is a man on a mission. In several interviews, he has expressed his desire to come into political office, hoping one day to become the governor of Missouri.

At the rate he is going now, it would not surprise me if his wish came true. Horn, though he is has not officially become the SGA president yet, is already playing the part. Even in college, Horn is the consummate politician, an unignorable presence at UMKC.

However, before he become a rising-star student politician, Horn had another claim to fame, one that brought him attention on the national stage. A Division II athlete before coming to UMKC, Horn came into the spotlight in June as something rarely seen: an openly gay college wrestler. Inspired by the coming out stories of other gay athletes over the past several years, Horn decided to show the nation that those of any sexuality can stand out as athletes, having numerous articles written about him by outlets such us the Huffington Post and LGBT athletics website Outsports.com.

“Part of me felt selfish, like, how could I have this and not want to almost accelerate acceptance with the platform I have… So that’s when I made the decision to come out and show that you can compete in the sport of wrestling as a person of color and also being openly gay and you can make it.” said Horn in an interview with U-News.

However, Horn’s story is clouded by a claim that turns out to be untrue. In a previous U-News article, Horn was referred to as the “first openly gay college wrestler.” In an interview with me, I repeatedly referred to Horn in our conversation as the “first openly gay college wrestler.” However, an anonymous tip to UNews revealed an article in the Chicago Tribune this label to be false. The article described Dylan Geick, a college wrestler for Columbia University with a large internet following, who was also openly gay. This article was written in March of 2018. Though Horn came out to his teammates long before, he only came out on the national stage in June of 2018.

After hearing him make no attempt to correct me or the U-News article wrongly describing him, I confronted Horn with this article.
He was unfazed. His response: “So when it happened I was the first one to compete openly, and even like when they defined the term open, I was open about it and had news articles and TV interviews. A lot of them that were open, they did not use their platform of ‘they weren’t open about it,’ which is why my claim to fame is being open about it.”

Geick, however, was quite open about his sexuality and also received attention in national media. For example, both a New York Times article from February of 2018 and an Outsports.com article from 2017 describe Geick as an openly gay wrestler.

Nonetheless, Horn persisted and made no attempt to set the record straight.
Of course, many may ask if this is really such a big deal. Does it really matter who was the first openly gay wrestler? In my opinion, it does. Horn has pushed his claim to fame as an openly gay wrestler vigorously. It has profited him immensely in the form of media attention as he has appeared in numerous publications, television interviews and podcasts. On his track to become a politician, he has leveraged his name recognition and story to win him favor. While it is still brave of him to express his sexuality openly in a hyper-masculine sport, he is claiming credit where it is not due. He has adopted the title of trailblazer when he is following closely behind the path of others.

Neil Armstrong was the first human to walk on the moon. Buzz Aldrin was two steps behind him. Though they went through the same struggles and took the same risks, Aldrin was still known as the ​second​ man to walk on the moon. Aldrin makes no claims to the contrary. The same is true for Horn. While his coming out may still be rightfully lauded as a brave thing to do, he should recognize that he is in fact not the first of his kind, and he should not attempt to employ a false claim as a tool to curry political favor and an aid to realize his ambitions.

With all this in mind, I raise the question again—who is Justice Horn? That is up for you to decide.

samuelbellefy@mail.umkc.edu

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