Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Lesbian Bogeywoman Strikes Again?

Brooke Heike, a former basketball player at Central Michigan State University, has filed a lawsuit against CMU coach Sue Guevara. According to this article Heike claims that Guevara benched her and then revoked her scholarship because she wore make up and because she was not a lesbian. Further, the lawsuit claims that Guevara tried to persuade Heike to give up her heterosexuality and become a lesbian. The suit also claims that, while Guevara was coach at the University of Michigan, certain unnamed players there reported that she invaded their personal lives “such as being upset because they wore make-up or tight clothing or otherwise acted in a feminine way." This article provides more detail.

OK, let me say at the outset that it is not acceptable for a coach, any coach, to discrimination against a player because of her sexual orientation or gender expression, whatever they are. It is no more acceptable for a lesbian coach to discriminate against a heterosexual player than it is for a straight coach to discriminate against a lesbian player. If Heike’s allegations are true, the coach was wrong. Let me also say I have no information about Coach Guevara’s sexual orientation.

But, at the risk of being accused of lesbian bias, I have to say that I find these allegations wildly improbable. Possible? Sure. Lesbian coaches are capable of unethical conduct just as heterosexual coaches are, but most lesbian coaches I know are very careful about their interactions with players to avoid any hint of impropriety that might blow their cover. They do not want to call attention to their sexual orientation because they are afraid they will be targeted by negative recruiting or some other kind of discrimination. It happens all the time.
For a closeted lesbian coach, accusations of this kind would be a complete nightmare. They raise the specter of the lesbian bogeywoman stereotype: hostile to feminine gender expression and fixated on recruiting young straight women to the lesbian “team.” It sounds like a 50’s lesbian pulp fiction novel: The evil coach/PE teacher/camp counselor/prison matron (take your pick) preying on the sweet young thing. It sounds like a cartoon or something written by anti-gay activists to scare parents with daughters who are athletes.

The worst part of this story is that, it doesn’t matter if the charges are true or not, lesbian coaches everywhere will be affected by them. When Anson Dorrance, the UNC women’s soccer coach, is accused of (and finally apologizes for) sexual harassment of his players, or when Todd McCorkle, the University of Georgia golf coach resigns after showing Paris Hilton sex tapes to his team, or when Tom Mutch, Boston College women’s ice hockey coach, is found texting sexually explicit messages to one of his players who he is having sex with we don’t shake our heads and generalize their bad behavior to all other male coaches of women’s teams. When women coaches are assumed to be lesbians, as in this case, and accused of comparable outrageous behavior, every lesbian coach and every woman coach perceived to be a lesbian suffers the consequences of the accusations.

Until we can create a climate in athletics where lesbian coaches and athletes can come out and live openly, the lesbian bogeywoman will continue to cast a long shadow over women’s sports. Let us all hope these charges are as ridiculous as they sound. Unfortunately, Sue Guevara’s career may never be the same whether they are true or not. The accusation is all it takes. Meanwhile Anson Dorrance has just finished another year as the highly paid and successful coach of women’s soccer at UNC. (Thanks to Megan Andrews for calling my attention to this story)

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

I suppose I could be accused of reverse bias as a coach too. I ask my plyaers not to wear makeup on the basketball court. I tell them that if they want to fake bake and wear makeup they are playing the wrong sport. Take up cheerleading.

kate said...

I agree with Pat, that most lesbian coaches have so much fear of being accused of inappropriate behavior, that they would not even consider the opposite. however for any reason no discrimination of any sort should exist. i could not see any lesbian coach attacking a non lesbian as mentioned, but possible. this coach had rules no make up on the court. Make up can certainly make a difference on the court if it starts to smudge, get in the eye, could mean affecting ones play. I am not aware of this particular coaches lifestyle, regardless i just could not see this coach doing something in that fashion as being alleged. Everyone is considered innocent until found guilty.

Anonymous said...

Pat, did you read Debbie Schlussel blog and article on debbie schlussel.com dated 02/11/09. wow

Pat Griffin said...

Anonymous, thanks for the heads up on the Debbie Schussel blog. You have to read her in context. She seems like an Ann Coulter (not sure I spelled her name right) wannabe. Consider the source.

About a no make up rule on the court - it applies to everyone and it has a legitimate basketball related purpose, so I have no problem with that.

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