Ohio State’s cheerleading squad has several outfield cheerleaders

Tristan Cruz and Ian Lattea started as roommates in the situation. Incoming freshmen on Ohio State’s cheer team have to sit together, and they thought it was a game, based on the group’s roster.

Three years later, they are best friends, and found a new family in the process.

“It was the best show of support I’ve ever seen,” Lattea told Outsports.

Ohio State featured three outside cheerleaders last year, including Lattea and Cruz. While Lattea decided to stop being happy, they still live together, and they share a lifelong bond.

“It was really good. We had gay people on the team,” said Cruz.

The most important part of being an Ohio State cheerleader comes on game day, when the Buckeyes take the field in front of about 105,00 screaming fans at Ohio Stadium. The atmosphere is downright bacchanalian, and Cruz feels right at home.

Think about it: a gay cheerleader relishes the opportunity to perform in front of 100,000 loud football fans. We came a long way.

“It’s not like everything else,” Cruz said. “I can have the worst time, and when the pregame just starts and ‘Script’ is playing and one of the band members drops ‘I’ and the place goes crazy, it will change my mood very quickly.”

There are many out gay cheerleaders in the NFL, including on the Los Angeles Rams, the defending Super Bowl champions. The Rams sent five gay cheerleaders to the Super Bowl last season.

Gay Atlanta Falcons cheerleader Ben Ajani got married before a game last season, and there are at least three out LGBTQ cheerleaders on the Carolina Panthers, two of whom we profiled last year.

This year, the Panthers made history when they hired the NFL’s first openly transgender cheerleader, Justine Lindsay.

All that exposure is changing perceptions.

“I hope I’m setting a good example and a good example for other gay boys who want to join this team,” said Cruz.

Both Lattea and Cruz attended Ohio State as gay men and avid cheerleaders. Lattea started cheerleading as a freshman in high school, and credits the sport with helping her find her identity.

“It really helped me to know who I was,” he said.

Cruz, for his part, calls joining cheer “truly” the best decision he ever made.

When Lattea and Cruz first started cheering at OSU, they immediately felt love from their peers.

“[My teammates] were people who supported me, and a lot of them are a little biased, and there’s nothing but the support of the whole team, and my teammates have all come out,” Lattea said. “I like all my old colleagues very much.”

“There is nothing but good. No one is judging anyone,” he said.

There are downsides to happiness. It can be a physically and mentally demanding sport, with long procedures and high stress. Feeling the need for refreshment, Lattea stepped back from the team this season, but remains a part of Buckeye Spectrum, a student-athlete organization dedicated to creating safe spaces for LGBTQ athletes.

Stories like Lattea and Cruz’ help.

“At OSU, I don’t even think I’d consider them teammates,” Lattea said. “They were just my family.”

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