Monday, November 5, 2007

Wake Up, Coach! Parents of Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans Athletes Are Speaking Out.

Over the last several months I’ve noticed an increase in the number of emails and phone calls I get from parents whose LGBT sons or daughters play on high school or college athletic teams. These parents want advice and resources to ensure that their children are treated fairly by coaches. It’s exciting because these young people are out to their parents and their parents are actively supporting their LGBT children. It has not always been so (And is still not so for too many young LGBT athletes).

I think this up tick in parental inquiries indicates trends that are really hopeful – Young athletes are coming out more often and their parents expect that school athletic programs will be able to protect their children’s right to participate in a respectful and safe athletic climate. If they encounter coaches, teammates or other parents who are uncomfortable with an LGBT athlete on the team or who flat out discriminate against or harass an LGBT team member, parents and their children are ready to challenge this treatment.

Based on my experiences in workshops with collegiate athletes and their coaches, I’ve noticed for awhile that the athletes are more comfortable than their coaches are with having lesbian or gay teammates. Generational changes on attitudes toward LGBT people in general are also reflected in national polls. Young heterosexual people are more comfortable in schools, on teams and in the workplace with LGBT people than their elders are. Parents who have LGBT children are the exception. They have a deep personal investment in change. As with any parent, they want their children to be treated fairly and are willing to speak out to make it happen.

This is a wake up call for high school and college coaches to do the work they need to do to make their teams respectful for everyone. Not only is it the right thing to do, it can avoid some nasty encounters (and possibly lawsuits) with angry parents and their LGBT children who believe that athletics should be safe and respectful for all. As the super-caffeinated soft drink TV commercial says, “Wake Up, People!”


calugg said...

Here's a little tid-bit for LGBT athletes attending NJ public schools. In February 2007, the NJ Supreme Court held that public school districts can be held liable (ie be SUED) if they maintain a pervasively homophobic climate (see L vs. Toms River).

So, I suspect a few $$$$ cases where the district loses, and everyone will be singing from the equality page.

Soccer Dad said...

First - it is always good to stand up for what you believe in and I support you voicing your opinions. However I think you have missed an important point - that being the team environment created by an overtly lesbian or heterosexual culture. One's sexual preference (opposite or same sex) shouldn't be a factor in sport, unfortunately I have seen different from close family experience. My first cousin earned a full ride softball scholarship to a div 1 school but walked away from the team after her freshman year due to incredible pressure from her team mates to not be tolerant but participate actively in the lesbian culture of the team. I would assume you also would not support such peer pressure...

As a father of two daughters who have a shot of playing collegiate soccer it will be important to my wife and I in evaluating a potential college that the players sexual orientation is not part of the team's culture. And no I am not asking for everyone to jump back in the closet but to live their lives as they wish and be a bit modest about the most private parts of our lives.

Jen said...

Soccer dad has missed both the spirit in which this post was intended and the importance of its message. Pat writes of parents(like Soccer Dad) who care deeply about the wellbeing of their children and are taking action to ensure fair and equal treatment for ALL students in athletics. Please excuse me from straying from the original intent of Pat’s blog to address some of the statements made by Soccer Dad.

It is unfortunate that a member of Soccer Dad’s family had a bad experience but this singular experience should not be cited as a reason to condemn “lesbian culture.” (I should note soccer dad’s brief mention of heterosexual culture and lack of further discussion on the topic). By expressly attempting to ensure “sexual orientation is not part of the team’s culture” in the college search process, Soccer Dad assumes that a “lesbian culture” is one that will cause harm to his daughters and that a lesbian litmus test exists to identify such a culture. I would caution soccer dad from relying upon stereotypical notions of the “predatory lesbian” and/or immodest and non-discrete “lesbian culture” in sport when considering intercollegiate athletic opportunities for his daughters. Such grossly unfair and unfounded stereotypes/generalizations about "lesbian culture" are homophobic and will only limit opportunities for athletic participation and personal growth opportunities for Soccer Dad’s daughters.
Soccer Dad states, “One's sexual preference (opposite or same sex) shouldn't be a factor in sport.” However, a long history of hostile discrimination of LGBT athletes and allies makes sexual orientation in sport a factor that demands our attention.

Getting back to the original point, this blog credits parents and coaches with helping to create cultures in which all athletes feel safe, supported, and afforded the same opportunities to excel in athletics. Pat’s hopeful blog does not advocate for an “overtly lesbian or heterosexual culture," the blog advocates for an overtly safe and equitable culture for all.