Out at the Brier: Gay curler fulfils childhood dream

Dustin Kidby has never shied away from doing things first. Now the Saskatchewan lead is helping carve out a path to greater inclusion as an openly gay curler at the Brier.

Saskatchewan’s Dustin Kidby embraced by teammates, opponents

Dustin Kidby, right, says his fellow Saskatchewan players Sean Meachem, left, Catlin Schneider, centre, and Adam Casey, not pictured, have "all gone out of their way to let me know they don't judge me and I'm their teammate." (Michael Burns/Curling Canada)

ST. JOHN'S — Dustin Kidby has never shied away from doing things first.

As the lead for Team Saskatchewan, he sets the tone by throwing the first rocks of each end for his rink. And now, in his own low-key way, he's helping carve out a path to greater inclusion by speaking publicly about being an openly gay curler at this year's Brier.

"I love to curl. That's what I do. That's how I live my life," Kidby says. "Being gay has nothing to do with this."

Playing in a Brier is a childhood dream fulfilled for Kidby. Growing up in Regina, curling was always on the TV at home. His favourite player was Wayne Middaugh, who skipped Ontario to the 1998 Brier title and played third on the Glenn Howard-led team that won in 2012 in Saskatoon.

Kidby's decade-long pursuit of a spot in the Canadian championship tournament was realized in February when a newly formed group of guys captured their provincial title. Kidby hadn't known his teammates for very long and wondered if his being gay would be an issue. The answer was a resounding no.

"Shaun Meachem [the team's second] and I had a little heart-to-heart a few weeks ago on a trip to Minnesota," says Kidby. "[Skip] Adam [Casey] and [third] Catlin [Schneider] are super cool about it. I feel accepted. They've all gone out of their way to let me know they don't judge me and I'm their teammate."

Casey, who's originally from Prince Edward Island, is Kidby's roommate in St. John's.

"I room with Deuce and there's no difference from rooming with any other person," the skip says. "I think when we get to the point where this isn't a story, it's something that's just accepted, we'll be in a good place."

Family affair

The support for Kidby extends far beyond his team at this year's Brier. A week before the event, Curling Canada's director of communications and media relations, Al Cameron, gave him a call to let Kidby know he had the full support of the national governing body.

"I think what's interesting about this story is that it simply doesn't raise an eyebrow in the curling community," says Katherine Henderson, the CEO of Curling Canada.

Saskatchewan skip Adam Casey, right, is Kidby's roomate in St. John's. (Devin Heroux/CBC Sports)

"Dustin is one of 48 players playing for a gold medal at the Tim Hortons Brier, and none of his peers thinks of him as anything else but that. I think that's a measure of how welcoming and inclusive our sport is."

Kidby has plenty of family cheering him on too — on and off the ice.

Ben Hebert, the lead for defending champion Team Canada, is Kidby's cousin. The two have spent many days curling together in Regina (Hebert hails from there too), and you'd be hard-pressed to find a bigger fan of Kidby's.

"Super proud," says Hebert, who plays on skip Kevin Koe's Calgary-based rink. "I was so pumped when he got to this Brier. The family is here. It's his first Brier. He's a great player."

Hebert was one of the first people to phone Kidby when he qualified. In fact, while Kidby and his team were wrapping up their provincial win, Hebert was off winning a Skins game in Banff, Alta., with his team.

"I FaceTimed him. We had just won. He just won. Couldn't be happier for him," Hebert says. "I hope he gets a few more wins, as long as we beat them.

"Personally, I don't care if you're gay or straight. For me, if you're a good person, that's what counts." 

Brotherly love

Kidby's youngest brother, Taylor, stands a little taller and smiles a little bigger when he talks about Dustin being in this year's Brier. He's watching every shot from the stands in St. John's, decked out in Saskatchewan garb.

"This is incredible. I'm extremely proud. I get dressed up in my Sask gear. I'm a little obnoxious," Taylor says.

"I want to make sure he knows I support him."

Taylor Kidby is his older brother's most vocal, and visible, fan in St. John's. (Devin Heroux/CBC Sports)

Their parents are also here in the crowd, along with middle brother D.J., who as a second won the Canadian and world junior titles in 2005.

The three brothers are close, and Taylor remembers very distinctly the moment when Dustin told him he was gay.

"I feel like it was relieving for him," says Taylor. "I was just happy he sat down and talked to me about it. It couldn't have been a better conversation."

Taylor is the first to admit that, of the three brothers, Dustin is the favourite among friends and family.

"Everyone loves Deuce," Taylor says. "He is exactly what he portrays. Kind-hearted. Loving. But an athlete and a very good competitor."

A battle of the cousins is on tap for Wednesday afternoon in St. John's. Family and friends in the arena and across Canada will be watching closely as Dustin's Saskatchewan team takes on Hebert's Team Canada.

No matter how that contest turns out, a childhood dream has been realized for a kid from Saskatchewan who only wanted the chance to play on his country's biggest curling stage. 

"I'm always just going to go out there and do my best, and I'm always going to be gay," Dustin says. "That's not going to change."