Thursday, March 29, 2007

Eliminating Homophobia in Women’s Sport: A Step Forward and A Step Back

Two prominent women’s basketball coaches resign. One has a long history of allegations that she would not allow lesbians on her teams. One has, apparently, had a sexual relationship with a player who was on her team at the time. It was the right thing for both coaches to resign. Neither actions should be tolerated, but the potential effects of the two resignations on women’s basketball and women’s sport couldn’t be more different.

Portland was a coach who abused her power and flaunted university policy by institutionalizing anti-lesbian prejudice on her teams. Her departure from women’s basketball signals a new day when, I hope, this kind of bigotry will have consequences for the coaches who practice it and the schools who tolerate or support them. This is a victory in the battle against homophobia in women’s sport.

In the absence of information to the contrary, if the allegations are true, Chatman abused her power. In a world without homophobia, Chatman’s resignation, however, should not be about lesbians. No coach, gay and straight, men and women, should become sexually involved with the athletes on their teams. Period. End of story. This is not a lesbian issue.

Unfortunately, Chatman’s resignation will be about lesbians because homophobia is a huge issue in women’s sports. In the absence of openly lesbian coaches, her indiscretion takes on added significance that feeds fear and prejudice. As long as lesbian coaches must hide their personal lives to protect their professional ones, the lesbian label can be used against all women in sport and, especially against closeted lesbians. Chatman’s departure, I fear, is a set-back in the battle against homophobia in women’s sport.

Two coaches resign. One step forward. One step back.

1 comment:

calugg said...

On Chatman: I've not been following the story, but it is probably a combination of "the closet" (and how it distorts an individual's judgement) and an abuse of power. From what little I know, it's a sad story.

Portland was and is an evil asshole. I'm still doing the big ol happy dance on her departure. About 20 years late in my book--she's emotionally and psychologically abused generations of student athletes--something that PSU obviously approved of (!).

Honestly, until Paterno retires, PSU athletics will be homo-hostile, period. He's right out of the 1950s, for better and worse. Until he goes, the entire athletic department will follow his marching orders (to the right, to the right!--Jo PA is big in GOP circles).