Monday, December 29, 2008

2008 Top 10 Steps Forward for LGBT Athletes and Coaches

I decided to focus my 2008 Top 10 list on events and actions that I think are exemplary steps forward in making sports a safe and respectful place for LGBT people. It’s a pretty eclectic list and is completely my take on things. Let me know what you think. Some items were high profile media events and others were not necessarily well reported, but I think they make a difference. Here we go, in no particular order:

Eleven openly lesbian and gay athletes compete in the Beijing Olympics (and win seven medals among them). Visibility is one of our most important tools in debunking myths about lesbian and gay athletes. Coming out is really important, especially for athletes who are actively competing. Among these eleven pioneers were three American women: Lauren Lappin and Vickie Galindo, silver medalists in Softball and Natasha Kai, gold medalist in soccer (Blog posts August 11 and 21).

Matthew Mitcham’s Olympic diving gold medal. Among the eleven openly gay athletes, Australian Matthew Mitcham’s clutch come-from-behind upset of the heavily favored Chinese divers was an amazing performance. His joyous celebration with his partner after winning the gold was also something we rarely get to share.

The Washington Interscholastic Athletic Association’s passage of a statewide gender policy governing the participation of transgender athletes in high school sports. This action was not a high profile event, but the WIAA is the first state-wide sports governing organization for either high school or collegiate sport to take a thoughtful and reasoned look at how to accommodate student-athletes whose gender identity does not match their assigned gender at birth. So far, no national collegiate or high school sports governing organizations has taken this proactive approach. That makes Washington state’s forward thinking all the more impressive (Blog post June 6).

GLSEN’s Think B4 You Speak Campaign. Though this campaign does not specifically target athletics, it does focus on schools and the ubiquitous use of the phrase “That’s so gay” as a putdown among young people in schools. With the help of some high profile celebrities like Wanda Sykes and Hilary Duff in downloadable video PSAs targeting high school students, GLSEN has developed educational materials that any school or organization can use (Blog post October 16).

The Initiation of Our Group, the first National Network of LGBT Student-Athletes. This group of collegiate student-athletes has great ideas and great energy. Their willingness to not only be out, but also to take action to make athletics a more welcoming place for all LGBT student-athletes is inspiring (Blog post May 27).

Britain’s Rugby Football League anti-homophobia campaign. This national education campaign in Great Britain initiated by the RFL in collaboration Stonewall, a national gay rights group is truly ground-breaking. It also provides a model for us here in the United States. NFL, MLB, NHL and NBA are you listening? (Blog post December 1)

The Fearless Campus Tour. Jeff Sheng’s traveling photo exhibit of LGBT high school and collegiate student-athletes is a tremendous educational tool that has become increasingly popular. This creative project raises the issue of homophobia in sport and enables openly LGBT athletes to speak to other athletes of all sexual orientations and gender identities through their photographs and personal statements accompanying the photos (September 14).

A Near 100% Win Percentage in Lawsuits Challenging Title IX Retaliation Cases (often with homophobic overtones). Fresno State lost or settled three multi-million dollar lawsuits. Florida Gulf Coast University settled their lawsuit for 3.4 million. Two lesbian coaches at Mesa Community College had their discrimination charges against the school substantiated as the lawsuit moves forward. With the economic stress schools are feeling these days, the stupidity and arrogance demonstrated by some athletic administrators is difficult to fathom in the face of near certain losses in these cases. Is equality for lesbians and all women in athletics really that painful? (Blog posts September 18 and October 16)

Nike Sports for Pulling Their Offensive “That Ain’t Right” Shoe Ads. True, it took some complaining in the blogosphere and from gay rights groups, but Nike did pull the ads. Now, if we can only convince Snickers and Doritos and their ad agencies that it is not ok to play on an assumption of men’s homophobia to sell product to them (Blog post July 28).

ESPN, A Budding Ally in Addressing LGBT Issues in Sport. Over the past year, ESPN has done a thoughtful piece on negative recruiting in women’s sports for Outside The Lines, started an LGBT employee group, hosted the Fearless Campus Tour and is now researching a segment for Outside The Lines on transgender athletes. No, ESPN is not perfect. I know that, but compared to some of the other sports media, they are definitely making moves in the right direction (Blog posts March 25 and November 3).

That’s it. My take on the 10 Steps Forward in 2008. I could also have made up a list of Steps Backward for the year. Several potential actions or events come to mind, but I decided to go with the positive and focus on Steps Forward.

Reviewing my blog entries for 2008, I came across the one I wrote about the two lesbians kissing at Safeco Field in Seattle (Blog post June 6). They were asked to leave by an overzealous employee after a woman complained about their PDA. I have to tell you that this is the blog entry I had the most fun writing this year and I think it is really funny. I am nominating it for the 2008 Pat Griffin’s LGBT Sport Blog Hall of Fame.

Happy New Year! Let us all hope that 2009 brings many steps forward, not only for addressing LGBT issues in sport, but also for peace, prosperity and social justice.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Random and Distracted Thoughts on Puppies and Other Ponderings

Just sitting here this morning trying to figure out what to write. I am a little distracted by our new puppy, Toby, who is a 5 month old border terrorist, excuse me, terrier mix. Toby is a rescue dog from Ohio and he has completely taken over our home and hearts. He is cute, but needs lots of attention and training. My undisturbed working time is now interrupted with attempts to save fleece blankets from shredding and entreaties from those big brown eyes for a rawhide chew or a pee break and romp in the front yard. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So, anyway, here I sit with the sounds of contented rawhide gnawing in the background (the fleece blanket is toast) trying to think of what I have to say that you might be interested in this week. Here are some random questions:

• Do you think ponytails help women athletes with balance? I know cats use their tails for balance. Maybe ponytails serve a similar function. Could that be the reason so many women athletes have ponytails? Will it catch on with men? There was that whole Samson thing after all.
• Do you think that speaking in a monotone and using sport clich├ęs during media interviews is somehow related to men’s athletic ability?
• Have you ever wondered why sports interviews in the locker room with sweaty naked and half naked men are considered so essential to covering men’s professional team sports?
• Have you thought about how lucky Plaxico Burress is that he only shot himself in the thigh?
• Can you imagine a time when a male athlete raping/harassing/hitting a woman will be considered a more serious offense than a woman athlete loving a woman.
• Do you hate the phrase “It’s just boys being boys” as much as I do?
• Do you understand why some straight male athletes think homophobic sexual humiliation during team hazing is funny, but recoil in horror at the thought of sharing a locker room with an openly gay teammate?
• Do you wonder how long it will take before a lesbian coach will be willing to talk about her partner and family in the team media guide like her heterosexual counterparts do?

I have to stop this now. Toby is finished with the rawhide chew and it is way too quiet in the house. I fear for other blankets and pillows within reach of his sharp little puppy teeth.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Go See Tru Loved. It’s Fun.

I went to see Tru Loved this weekend. It’s an independent film comedy about high school students dealing with typical high school drama with parents and friends in addition to sexual identity issues and homophobia. A central part of the story is the effort by the lead character, Tru (who is straight but has two moms and two dads), to start a gay-straight alliance at the school.

Out for Reel sponsored the showing and proceeds from the evening go to GSAs in Western Massachusetts. It’s a completely engaging film and I left the Northampton High School Auditorium smiling as did most of the full house crowd who attended. I recommend that you check it out if you have a chance. The end is a little idealistic just short of everyone holding hands and singing Kumbyah but what the heck, we need a vision, right?

Ok, here’s the sports angle - Woven into the plot is the story of Lo,an African-American closeted gay quarterback on the high school football team. Lo’s best friend on the team is a major homophobe as is their football coach (a pretty stereotypical portrayal except for the hint of British accent). Lo asks Tru out, but she quickly figures out what his secret is and agrees to help him “pass” by pretending to be his girlfriend…until she decides to start a GSA and falls for one of the straight guys in the group. Lo’s confusion about being gay and his fear about losing his family, football and his high status among his peers as a BMOC collide with his feelings for another openly gay student, his friendship with the courageous Tru and his budding desire to be true to himself. The last scene in which Lo finally comes out to everyone includes a cameo appearance by Dave Kopay, the first gay former NFL player to come out publicly.

My inner educator couldn’t help but take over as I watched the film. I could envision showing clips of this film to high school athletes and coaches. Unfortunately, the only character in the film who remains unrepentantly homophobia is the football coach, but the film leaves the impression that he will be the ex-coach very soon because of his bigotry, after getting an ultimatum from the school principal (who was a little light in his loafers). It was fun.

Wow, would I have loved to have had a movie like this when I was in high school. Go see it. It will make you smile.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Score One for Fair Play in Michigan City (sort of)

I’ve devote two blog posts (Ocotber 29 and November 10) to events in Michigan City, Indiana about two youth baseball coaches who were suspended, unsuspended and then resuspended for encouraging/allowing/participating in (depending on different reports) anti-gay name-calling directed at one of the 12 year old players on their team.

According to this news article, the City Park Board has, as a reaction to these events, enacted an amendment to their code of ethics requiring coaches to “take action” in response to “inappropriate, foul or abusive” language from parents, fans or players. Coaches who fail to act will be suspended and perhaps banned from future participation in city park programs. A step in the right direction.

The amendments, as reported in the news article, do not include any prohibition against coaches using unacceptable language themselves, procedure for reporting it or sanctions against the coaches if they were. This is an unfortunate oversight. It is equally important to hold coaches to the same standards as their players, parents and fans. I guess you can infer that, since the coaches are responsible for stopping the use of abusive or inappropriate language by others, the expectation is that they will hold themselves to the same standard. I just don’t understand how you can amend an ethics code and not mention coaches’ behavior too.

Creating a policy is a great step forward. I applaud the city park board for their action. I hope that Michigan City will also follow this up to provide all participants with more specific examples of what constitutes “inappropriate or abusive” language. In addition, I think it would be a great idea to sponsor a workshop for parents, fans, players and coaches about how to intervene in effective ways when unacceptable language is used. That would help to make it everyone’s responsibility for maintaining a positive “good sport” climate at games and practices rather than putting it all on the coaches, especially if coaches are the ones who are using unacceptable language themselves.

Monday, December 1, 2008

“Some People Are Gay. Get Over It!”

This is the message that will be on signs and posters at Britain’s Rugby Football League games beginning in February. The RFL is working in collaboration with Stonewall, a gay and lesbian rights group in Britain, to organize this first every education and awareness campaign sponsored by a national sports organization. The campaign slogan will also appear in game programs and rugby fanzines. Plus, Stonewall is providing the league with information packets about inclusive policies and practices. But wait, there’s more! (as that loud guy on the TV infomercials keeps yelling) The RFL is also setting up a gay, lesbian, bisexual forum for staff and players. A spokesperson for the RFL said they became interested in doing this campaign after similar collaborative efforts between individual teams and local LGBT groups were successful. The campaign is expected to reach two million people who attend matches each year as well as the 250,000 RFL players across the country.

Wow. In the United States this would be roughly equivalent to the NFL working with It Takes A Team to set up an education and awareness campaign for pro football fans at games, in Sports Illustrated, and to establish a forum for NFL players and staff to discuss gay issues. Can you imagine a Super Bowl PSA with the message “Some athletes are gay and that’s ok.”

Some inroads have been made into the macho world of the NFL. Gay ex-NFL player, Esera Tuaolo, led a session at rookie camp at least once. My colleague at UMass, Robin Harris, has also led sessions for the NFL rookies on a variety of diversity topics including LGBT issues. Former NFL commissioner, Paul Tagliabue, was an active supporter of PFLAG as a father with a gay son.

The San Francisco Forty-Niners are the only NFL team I know of that has taken an active role in working with community LGBT groups and enacting gay-friendly policy and education. Helen Carroll of the NCLR Sports Project works with the San Francisco Forty-Niners on LGBT issues as part of the Forty-Niners’ Community Advisory Committee. They also are the only NFL franchise to offer domestic partner benefits to employees. They are sponsors of the San Francisco Pride Parade and received an award from the Commercial Closet.

You might say, well, of course, it’s San Francisco! But I think their efforts to open doors provide some possibilities for other cities to initiate collaborative relationships with pro sports franchises. That is how the RFL’s campaign began. They saw how local collaborative efforts between teams and LGBT groups were received.

I know this might seem a bit optimistic to people who believe that NFL players will never accept a gay teammate and male football fans will never cheer for a queer, but if we don’t envision the future we want, how will we change sport?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Rant Warning! Homophobic Ads and Humor

A couple of weeks ago Ted Rybka, GLAAD Sports Desk Director wrote in the GLAAD blog about anti-gay humor at WEEI, a Boston Sports Talk radio station. You see, Boston is one of the finalists for the 2014 Gay Games. This announcement provoked WEEI to air a homophobic “promo” for the Gay Games. This, in turn, led to a gaggle of male listeners calling in to add their homophobic funnies to the conversation which the show hosts encouraged and also participated in. In a kind of adolescent way, cackling and hilarity ensued.

The actual fake promo is so stupid that it calls into question the IQ of the boys who found it so hilarious: hackneyed stereotypes about San Francisco and squealing gay men and sexual innuendos about men’s pole vaulting and women’s diving, for example. But then, judging from the web site, WEEI works hard to attract testosterone-poisoning sufferers who also appear to be stuck in some kind of middle school humor warp as well.

So, why even waste time blogging about this stupid stuff? Well, it raises several questions for me: How do we decide whether or not an ad is homophobic? Why is homophobia so funny to some people? When is a gay joke funny satire and when is it offensive? Why is that sports related advertising or advertising directed to male sports fans seem to rely so often on gay-related, often homophobic attempts at humor to sell stuff?

Two years ago the Super Bowl featured a Snickers commercial in which two men ended up kissing as they each chomped on separate ends of a Snickers bar. Several different endings of the commercial featured varying levels of violence as the two men completely freaked out over their accidental kiss. Much was also made of the NFL players’ sideline reactions to the ad which were featured on the Snickers web site.

More recently Nike pulled ads focused on a defensive player getting a face full of another player’s crotch as he plowed over him on the way to dunk the ball. Then there was the completely stupid Snickers ad featuring Mr. T shooting Snickers from a Gatling gun at a male race walker and screaming at him to get some nuts. This one was aired in Great Britain, not the U.S. I’ve blogged previously about all of these ads.

Now Doritos is getting into the act too. They have a preview of a transphobic and homophobic Super Bowl commercial on their web site and they want readers to give them feedback on it. Jock Talk over at Outsports is inviting readers to go the Doritos site and vote for the video. The consensus there is that the ad is funny. They also thought the Nike and Snickers ads were funny. I don’t agree.

Then there was the Onion satire about the gay race horse coming out which I blogged about just a few weeks ago. I thought that was clever and funny. It did not make me feel conflicted at all about laughing at it. It was not based on demeaning stereotypes of gay people and it did make its point about athletes’ coming out with humor.

I remember going to see the original La Cage Aux Folles movie in the 1980’s. I went to see the movie in a theatre packed with straight people who thought it was hilarious and it was funny, but I felt really uncomfortable because I felt like people in the audience were laughing AT the gay characters rather than the silliness that homophobia and moral pomposity promote. If I had been in a theatre packed with gay people laughing, I would have felt more comfortable laughing because I would have had more confidence that the laughter was not malicious or that the stereotypical gay characters would not be seen as silly and dehumanized. I wouldn’t worry that the audience would leave the movie with their homophobia confirmed at the same time that they got to feel “tolerant” because they went to a “gay” movie and enjoyed it. I wondered if they even got the pain and dignity I saw in Albin’s valiant, but futile attempts to “butch” it up for the moralistic parents of his son’s bride to be.

I am not comparing La Cage Aux Folles with any of these ads, don’t get me wrong. La Cage was not a homophobic film. To the contrary, it was a great French farce with wonderful gay characters. I am trying to make a point about what the audience brings to the movie or to the ad and also what the ad or the movie is counting on for its humor.

WEEI, Snickers, Nike and Doritos are counting on male homophobia and on audience stereotypes that gay athletes, lesbian athletes or trans people are A) disgusting, B) silly, C) not authentic (trans people), D) not athletic (in the case of gay men) E) obsessed with sex, F) legitimate targets of violence, or G) the cause of violent reactions if a straight man is perceived as gay.

I do not think this is funny. I don’t think the LGBT rights movement, especially in sport, is so far along that we don’t need to stand up and say “this is not acceptable.” We have yet to see an openly gay male professional athlete. Only a handful of lesbian professional athletes are out. Gay and lesbian athletes and coaches are still discriminated against in collegiate and high school sport. Male coaches and athletes still use anti-gay epithets to shame or taunt athletes. Parents of high school girls still ask college coaches if there are lesbians on the team. Negative recruiting based on perceived sexual orientation still a huge problem in women’s sports.

I worry about young sports fans listening to WEEI. What message do they get about playing on a team with gay teammates? What about young gay athletes struggling with whether or not to come out to their coaches and teammates? I think it is irresponsible for advertisements and radio stations to pander to the prejudices and fears of their audience in order to sell their products.

Why is homophobia so funny? Why does it sell? Here’s what I think – The audience targeted by these ads and programs (mostly male adolescents or men who act like adolescents), derive their sense of power and masculinity, not from an internal sense of confidence and comfort with who they are, but on assurances that they can find someone else, someone different from them, to put down. All women and gay men, people of color, transgender people, straight men who they perceive as soft are often the targets of their insecurities: “I am not gay, therefore I am OK.” “The louder I laugh at gay jokes, the straighter and more manly I feel.” How pathetic is that?

Pardon the lecture. I’m sick of these cheap attempts at humor at my expense and I don’t understand how other gay or lesbian people can give the people who are responsible for them a free pass.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

OUT Magazine's Out 100 List Falls Short

Out Magazine has named a list of “Out 100 Men and Women Who Made 2008 A Year to Remember. “ The list includes descriptions of honorees as well as some interesting photographs of each one. Most of the honorees are in arts, entertainment and fashion and most of them are white men. So the list ignores accomplished out LGBT people in many fields outside of this narrow focus as well as many women and people of color in all fields.

Diana Nyad is one of the 100, cited primarily for her accomplishments in journalism. Her photo is really cool too. However, many of us of a certain age also know Diana as an amazing athlete whose long distance swimming feats in the 1970’s defy the imagination. She still holds the record for a distance swim from Cuba to the US (102.5 miles!). Her athletic accomplishments were mentioned in passing, but it is primarily her journalistic career for which she is named to this list.

Two gay athletes are included in the list as a pair, rather than individually – Corey Benton and Jamal Brown – both out gay track athletes from Columbia and Dartmouth respectively. I think it is great that Corey and Jamal are honored by Out Magazine and they certainly deserve recognition, but I am wondering who the committee consulted with to identify athletes or coaches for the list.

Surely, in an Olympic year with several out lesbian or bi women athletes competing and medaling in Beijing they might have considered some of the American women for this honor. Lauren Lappin and Vickie Galindo (Silver medals in softball), Natasha Kai (Gold medal in soccer) would have been excellent choices. Shannon Miller, out lesbian coach of the University of Minnesota Duluth women’s ice hockey team, won the Frozen Four. She would also be a terrific choice. I plan to write to Out Magazine to encourage them to cast a broader net next year to honor more out LGBT people in athletes and to honor the accomplishments of more women and people of color.

The good thing is that my disappointment in the narrow focus of the Out Magazine list has prompted me to continue my own “Best of” list for 2008 (I did one for 2007) focusing on sports. Also, if you have a suggestion of someone to be honored, please let me know. Stay tuned

Monday, November 10, 2008

More From Michigan City

I’ve devoted two posts to the Michigan City, Indiana youth baseball coaches who were suspended for using anti-gay slurs and encouraging boys on the team to taunt one teammate with them as well. The park board then overturned the suspensions by a 2-2 vote. I’m not sure how they decided a tie constituted a reversal of the decision but they did. Now, according to this article, the vote to overturn the suspensions is being questioned by the City Council and the park board’s decision is being reviewed. It looks like there is a possibility that the overturn with be overturned. This all seems like good news to me.

However, even if the coaches are suspended again, I feel badly for the boys on the team, especially the one who was targeted by the anti-gay slurs from his teammates and coaches. I hope he has not lost his love of baseball over this or feels like he must now bully or taunt others to keep from being bullied again. I also feel sad about any of the boys who are gay or wonder if they might be or have gay family members or friends. What have they learned? For the rest of the team, it is a sad thing when young people learn that bullying or taunting of any kind is an acceptable way to act.

Nonetheless, thanks to the Michigan City Council for not letting the overturned suspensions stand without a thorough review.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Great Day for the USA, Except...

I could try to connect this post to sports by noting that Barack Obama played basketball yesterday as voters were going to the polls in unprecedented numbers to elect him the 44th President of the United States. But I won't even try. I just want say how proud I am to be an American today. I am so moved by the election of our first African-American president. I can only imagine what this is like for my African-American friends and colleagues to see something they never expected to see in their lifetime.

My feelings of excitement and joy, however, are tempered with great sadness that Proposition 8, the California initiative to ban same-sex marriage by amending the state constitution for the first time for the purpose of taking rights away from people, appears to be on its way to passage. As I write, the initiative is undecided, but 52% of the voters in California have cast their ballots for discrimination. Not a good sign. Similar initiatives passed in Arizona and Florida. So, it is a bittersweet victory today. One huge step forward. One disappointing step back.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Fearless Campus Tour Goes to ESPN

Jeff Sheng’s Fearless Campus Tour, a traveling photo exhibit of GLBT high school and collegiate athletes, appeared at ESPN headquarters a couple of weeks ago. Some of the athletes in the exhibit also participated in a panel sponsored by the GLAAD sports media project and editor, Ted Rybka. I know I’ve written about the Fearless Campus Tour before a few times, but I had to take note of this particular event. Hosting the Fearless Campus Tour is another example of how ESPN is taking the lead among sports media in addressing homophobia in sport.

ESPN is the premier sports network in the USA. They have featured several excellent segments on “Outside The Lines” about gay and lesbian athletes and ESPN reporter LZ Granderson, who is an out gay man, has been active on several educational panels about lesbian and gay athletes. Now ESPN has an GLBTA (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Allies) Employee Resource Group. The group is looking for ways to make ESPN more inclusive.

This video clip features some of the athletes in the Fearless photo exhibit who were also on the panel at ESPN talking about what it was like for them to participate in the event.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Announcing the Second Ever Horse’s Patoot Salute!

On September 24 I awarded the first Horse’s Patoot Salute to two youth baseball “coaches” in Michigan City, Indiana, Scott Kaletha and Mike Schwanke. These two men (who do not deserve to be called coaches) not only allowed team members to harass a 12 year old player with anti-gay slurs, the adults participated in the name-calling. They even defended their use of anti-gay slurs as “humor and joking” and “boys will be boys.” You can read the original news story here.

I just received an email from a relative of the boy targeted by the name-calling to let me know that the coaches’ appeal of their one year suspension for their behavior was overturned by the Michigan City Park and Recreation Board. You can read about the hearing here.

Thus, my second Horse’s Patoot Salute goes to the Michigan City Park & Recreation Board for their decision to allow two bullies who call themselves coaches to continue to damage the lives of the young boys in Michigan City.

This decision is an outrage. How can a board, that is supposed to protect young people by enforcing a standard of conduct for the adults who work with young athletes, justify their cowardly and harmful support for volunteer coaches who defiantly defend their right to bully and encourage bigotry among their 12-year old team members? You got me.

If I lived in Michigan City, I’d be screaming for the heads of the Park and Recreation Board members who voted to overturn the suspensions of these two men. I actually think a one year suspension is going too easy on them. They should be banned from working with the youth of Michigan City. What would it take for the Michigan City Park and Recreation Board to take action? What kind of lesson is this for the youth of Michigan City? I suspect that a good ole boy network was protecting their own at the expense of the youth of Michigan City.

There must be other adults willing to serve as volunteer coaches who are committed to a more enlightened coaching philosophy. If I lived in Michigan City and had a son or daughter who participated in sports coached by Kaletha and Schwanke (they also coach football), I would be screaming bloody murder about the failure of the Park and Recreation Board to enforce even minimal standards of civility here. Can citizens not demand that volunteer youth sports coaches act with more maturity and judgment than we see among middle school aged bullies?

If you agree, I encourage you to contact the Recreation Director and Mayor of Michigan City to let them know :

Jeremy Kienitz
Recreation Director
voice: (219) 873-1524

Mayor Chuck Oberlie
Office of the Mayor
100 East Michigan Boulevard
Michigan City, Indiana 46360

Friday, October 24, 2008

First Gay Race Horse

Here is a very funny video from the Onion, a satirical news web site, that has some really clever posts. Enjoy!

First Openly Gay Racehorse To Compete Sunday

Thursday, October 16, 2008

FGCU Coaches Win $3.4 Mil Settlement

Last December 7 I wrote a post here about the deplorable situation at Florida Gulf Coast University where women coaches were being retaliated against for complaining about Title IX violations. The university and two of the coaches involved, former golf coach Holly Vaughn and former volleyball coach Jaye Flood, reached a settlement in which the two coaches will receive a total of $3.4 million. Here is another story about this. There was also a defamation charge in the lawsuit, I assume because the university tried to smear Jaye Flood by claiming she grabbed a player by the shirt (never substantiated) and that she had a sexual relationship with the team manager (never substantiated either). The university also agreed to a full external gender equity compliance review as part of the settlement. This is good because we already know that an internal review is useless since they already did one and decided that everything was just hunky dory in the athletic department.
It is telling, however, that no one from the athletic department was present for the announcement of the settlement and the University President stated that he has “full confidence” in athletic director Carl McAloose. The settlement also means that FGCU does not have to admit any wrongdoing. This does not lead me to believe that that anyone in the school administration or athletic department leadership has seen the light at all. The arrogance and sexism of the athletic department leadership (backed by the same from the school administration) and the refusal of the coaches to sit back and take it without a fight resulted in the boys being called to account. However, with the same old leadership who has the same old attitudes about women’s sports, how can we expect any more than the same old, same old? I hope I am wrong.

FGCU lost two successful coaches, got some bad publicity and their insurance company had to pay out $3.4 mil. I hope that is enough to catch the attention of other schools. Women coaches and athletes are not taking this kind of treatment anymore. Those who challenge discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation are winning hefty settlements. It’s a shame it has to come to that, but if that‘s what it takes to get the attention of these bozos, I’m all for it.

Saying “That’s So Gay!” is So Yesterday!

The Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN) has produced an ad campaign targeting young people who use the phrase, “that’s so gay,” as a general putdown for anything that they see as stupid, ugly, out of style, weird and so on. The campaign also targets parents and educators and provides resources for them to address the casual use of this putdown with young people. Check out the web site,

The casual use of “that’s so gay” and other anti-gay slurs like “faggot,” “dyke,” and “no homo” are common in athletics. When I work with collegiate athletes I often ask them to raise their hands if they have heard teammates or coaches use phrases like these in the last week or two. Typically, almost everyone, men and women, say that they have heard these words. I often then ask them to indicate if they have heard teammates or coaches object to the use of these phrases. Typically, very few indicate that they have.

When I ask the same questions of coaches, they typically say they do not hear anti-gay slurs at all. I guess there are several explanations for this disconnect. Maybe athletes use anti-gay words out of the coaches’ hearing. Maybe the coaches are not being honest because they know they should say something to stop this, but don’t. Maybe they are so used to hearing (and using) these words that they really don’t notice them.

The casual use of anti-gay words has become such a part of youth culture that many young people do not even think about what effect these words might have on friends, classmates or teammates who are gay, have gay family members, or are questioning their sexuality. School climate surveys conducted by GLSEN indicate that high school students rarely observe teachers or coaches intervene when anti-gay slurs are used.

Why don’t teachers and coaches speak up? Some don’t see the harm. Some do, but don’t know what to say. Some are afraid of being perceived as gay if they speak up. Some are too busy so they let it go. Some use these words themselves as a way to “motivate” or punish male athletes or, in the case of women’s sports, to inoculate themselves and their teams from the dreaded lesbian label.

It is difficult for me to understand how anyone who works with young people thinks that an atmosphere in which any kind of name-calling or casual use of slurs contributes to excellence in the classroom or on the playing field. It’s so yesterday.

If you are a teacher, a coach, a parent, an aunt or an uncle, speak up. The next time you hear a young person in your life (or an adult, for that matter) say “that’s so gay” or any of the other phrases that insult gay people and make the people who use them look stupid, say something. Don’t just let it go. It really does make a difference.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

An Inspiring Story About Being a Black Gay Athlete

Outsports has posted an article written by Jamal Brown, a former Dartmouth track and field athlete. Jamal is also featured in Jeff Sheng’s Fearless Campus Tour. I encourage readers to take the time to read Jamal’s Outsports post.

I have always been a believer in the power of personal story-telling. Jamal’s story, and the stories of other LGBT athletes and coaches who can choose to tell their stories and live their truth, can empower the story teller and everyone else in their lives. When teammates and coaches respond with friendship and support, it enriches everyone’s life and frees the team to focus on what the focus should be in athletics: becoming the best athlete and team possible.

When I hear about stories like the ones unfolding at SMU or Mesa Community College or on the youth baseball team in Indiana (check previous posts), it seems so clear that what is happening in these situations is such a destructive force that ruins the sport experience for all. It sucks the life out of a team, not to mention ruining the careers of athletes and coaches. Regardless of their sexual orientation, what do the young people on these teams learn?

Thanks, Jamal, and all of the other LGBT athletes and coaches who are speaking up and out, telling their stories, naming their truths with the expectation that teammates and coaches will rise to the occasion rather than respond based on their fears and prejudices. The more those who can speak up do, the more space we create for those who fear speaking their truth because their teammates and coaches have not yet learned to overcome their fear and prejudice. Team by team, LGBT athletes who come out are changing sports and that change is a good thing.

Note: I will be away for about ten days and will not be posting anything until sometime the week of October 13. Take care. Talk to you later.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Trouble Brewing at SMU

A former basketball player at Southern Methodist University in Dallas has filed a lawsuit against the school and head women’s basketball coach, Rhonda Rompola. Jennifer Colli alleges that Rompola revoked her scholarship in retaliation because Colli complained to the athletic director that Rompola was asking questions about her sexual orientation and about the sexual orientation of other players on the team. An SMU internal investigation found that Colli’s accusations were unfounded.

The article goes on to report on other allegations included in the lawsuit. According to Colli, Rompola told the team she “did not approve” of gay relationships on the team. Colli, who acknowledges that she was in a relationship with another player on the team, says that there were also relationships among other players and also past relationships among coaches. Four of Colli’s teammates and her sister have signed statements supporting Colli’s allegations and claiming that Rompola herself was involved in a past “long term” relationship with a female assistant coach. Last year Rompola married Mike Dement who is the head men’s basketball coach at the University of North Carolina – Greensboro, where he lives.

Colli also alleges in the lawsuit that interest in her expressed by other coaches at schools where she hoped to transfer evaporated after those coaches talked to Rompola, prematurely ending her basketball career.

I have no idea what the facts are in this case. However, if Colli’s allegations are true, it is yet another example of why it is so important for schools to educate coaches and athletic administrators about discrimination based on sexual orientation in athletics and about responsible and fair policy decisions about relationships among teammates, whether that team is only men, only women or both men and women.

That the allegations in this case include the contention that Rompola has also been involved in same-sex relationships point up the damaging effects of internalized homophobia. Again, I know nothing about the facts in this case, but by turning her own fear on her players who are lesbian or bi, a lesbian coach buys into the belief that lesbian athletes are the problem, not homophobia. As more young lesbian and gay athletes are comfortable with their sexuality and have a sense of entitlement to fair treatment, the gulf widens between them and their coaches, regardless of the coach’s sexual orientation. Unless coaches educate themselves, they risk being on the receiving end of a discrimination lawsuit.

The tragic part of this lawsuit is that it will be read by some schools as justification for avoiding lesbians coaches and athletes or going on a witch hunt against lesbian coaches and athletes as a way to prevent being caught in the legal and public relations nightmare into which SMU is now descending. Ironically, many of these same schools continue to hire, recruit and defend male coaches and athletes who are charged with rape, drug offenses, other felonies as well as NCAA violations as long as they are contributing to the win column. While these offenses are tolerated, all a lesbian coach or athlete needs to do is get caught being who she is and having the nerve to demand respect and fairness.

It would make so much more sense to educate athletic staff about effective, fair policies that are not based on discrimination or fear. I invite readers to check out resources we have on the It Takes A Team web site that address these issues and provide policies recommendations for athletic administrators and coaches.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Announcing the first Horse’s Patoot Salute

This news story has inspired me to initiate a new “award” that I will bestowing from time to time on deserving people, organizations, events in the world of sports. The Horse’s Patoot Salute will go to particularly outrageous and offensive instances of homophobia in sport. I like the image of “Horse’s Patoot” because awardees will be chosen based on their backward, rear view, out-dated and bigoted views on LGBT people and issues in sport. I will be the sole judge of who or what deserves recognition, but would love to hear from other folks who want to nominate a loser, I mean, winner.

Now, with no further adieu. I’d like to announce that (drum roll, please) the inaugural Horse’s Patoot Salute goes to youth travel baseball head coach Scott Kaletha and assistant coach Mike Schwanke of Michigan City, Indiana. One of the 12 year old boys on their team was being harassed by other boys calling him such creative names as “homo, queer, fag.” These adult men who claim to be coaches acknowledged that they knew this harassment was occurring, but said they didn’t see anything wrong in the boys’ actions or language. Kaletha said it was only "joking and humor" and "just boys being boys." Yeah, we’ve heard that before along with “normal hazing.” It wasn’t only that Kaletha permitted the boys on his team to harass their teammate with homophobic slurs, he also apparently encouraged it, even participated in it himself.

The news article also reports other unacceptable behavior by the these men who call themselves coaches that, if true, is equally outrageous – challenging opposing coaches to fights, arguing with umpires, getting thrown out of games, telling their pitcher to intentionally hit batters from the other team.

Michigan City Park Superintendent, Darrell Garbacik, suspended the so-called coaches for one year, but they are appealing their suspension. Hats off to Garbacik for taking his principled stand. Let’s hope the appeals board is equally enlightened.

I am not making this stuff up. I wish I was.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Mesa Community College Lesbian Coaches Title IX Charges Substantiated

My blog post on May 20, 2008 described the details of lawsuit brought against Mesa Community College in San Diego, CA. Two lesbian plaintiffs, the women’s basketball coach and director of basketball operations, who are also life partners with three children, charged that they were fired in retaliation for complaining about Title IX violations at the school. They also charged discrimination based on their gender and sexual orientation.

365 Gay News not only provides some background from the retaliation lawsuit at Fresno State, but also describes the results of the OCR investigation into the Title IX violations at Mesa. The OCR report called the Title IX violations at Mesa “substantial and unjustified.” The OCR did not investigate the coaches’ gender and sexual orientation discrimination charges however. That part of the lawsuit is still to come. NCLR is representing both women so Mesa better start saving their nickels and dimes because they are probably going down.

You’d think after the numerous examples we have now of coaches of women’s sports winning lawsuits or out of court settlements in these Title IX retaliation cases that athletic directors would wise up. It’s like they need an AA-like group for themselves or something. “Hi, my name is Dick and I am a sexist and homophobic pig (without lipstick, of course). I can’t seem help myself. I just hate it when women coaches (especially lesbians), challenge my authority by demanding equal treatment. The nerve! I am powerless to avoid court appearances and embarrassing media coverage that make me look like a horse’s patoot.” Maybe some of the ADs who have already been through a Title IX lawsuit could step up and sponsor these guys to help them control their addiction to sexism and homophobia. I mean no disrespect to AA here.

All I can say to ADs who still don’t get it – The times are changin’, guys. We sue, we win. Athletic directors everywhere, bury your head in the sand at your own risk.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Bob Costas Talks about Sports Media and Gay Athletes

Check out this excellent interview with sports commentator Bob Costas on media coverage of lesbian and gay athletes. The interview follows the reaction in the gay sports press and blogosphere to the failure of NBC Olympic TV commentators to acknowledge that Australian Olympic diving gold medalist, Matthew Mitcham is openly gay (NBC first defended their silence and then later apologized for their omission).

Let's hope that what comes out of all this is that the next time we have an openly gay or lesbian athlete competing, the "up close and personal" media coverage is the same as we have come to expect when the athletes are heterosexual. I am not talking about special attention or sensationalized voyeurism. I am saying that identifying an openly gay athlete as such is ok. It is more than ok. The failure to do so perpetuates the idea that gay people should stay closeted and that acknowledging that an athlete is openly gay is inappropriate. I am talking about the media treating openly lesbian and gay athletes as if they have lives outside the pool, gym or playing field and that their families, spouses and children are just as much a part of their story as they are for heterosexual athletes.

It is still all too rare to have a gay or lesbian professional or Olympic athlete come out while they are competing. The media needs to honor their courage and not slam the closet door in their faces by pretending they didn't come out. Here is a wonderful media article about openly lesbian Olympic softball silver medalist Lauren Lappin that provides a terrific example of the kind of media coverage openly gay athletes deserve.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Fearless and Fabulous

I’ve written before about Jeff Sheng and his traveling photo exhibit of LGBT high school and college athletes (November 12, 2007). The project is called Fearless and you can learn more about it at Jeff’s web site Fearless Campus Tour. In the tradition of the Love Makes A Family photo exhibit project, Fearless is a way to raise awareness and to put faces to the abstract concept of “LGBT athletes.” It is a way to help people understand that LGBT athletes are members of every school community and that their academic and athletic goals and interests are not all that different from everyone else. The athletes featured in Fearless are your teammates, friends, sons and daughters, nieces and nephews. They are people sitting next to you in class or at the movie theatre. They are also role models for younger generations of LGBT athletes who still need to see their experiences celebrated and still need to know that being an athlete and being openly gay, lesbian, bi or trans is possible.

Some day, coming sooner than later, we will not need to describe LGBT athletes who are open about their sexuality as fearless, but today we still do. Thanks, Jeff, and thanks to all the athletes who chose to be a part of your wonderful photo exhibit.

I found this posting on YouTube in which Jeff talks about the Fearless photo exhibit. Check it out. Better yet, see if your school would like to host the Fearless photo exhibit. You can get in touch with Jeff through his web site.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Is Hazing Ever "Normal"?

It’s the start of another school year. It’s time to turn attention from the Olympics to schools again. I hate to begin the school year on a depressing note, but here is an appalling story about middle school bully boys who have apparently been terrorizing and gang raping seventh grade boys with a plastic cone in the school locker room for months. The alleged rapists and bullies are athletes on school teams between the ages of 13 and 15.

Most of the incidents reportedly occurred just outside the physical education instructors’ office. Other boys who witnessed the crimes said that the screams of the victims were definitely within earshot of the teachers and coaches, but they never investigated or intervened. An initial investigation by school administrators apparently dismissed the claims of victims saying that the incidents did not go beyond “normal hazing.”

Normal hazing? And what might that be? Is hazing so ingrained in athletics and physical education culture that there could be any kind of harassment or humiliation that can be described as normal? Where do we draw the line? Is calling a kid “fag” ok? Is shoving him into his locker or snapping his butt with a towel ok? Is forcing him to submit to public sexual assault ok?

When middle school athletes have already escalated their bullying to gang rape, what kind of hazing can we expect once they made the high school varsity team? What is it about athletics that we ignore or excuse behavior that would be criminal in another setting?

So much of the hazing that occurs on high school and college athletic teams seems to involve gender, sexual and sexual orientation based attempts to humiliate the team “rookies.” These activities are usually accompanied by forced consumption of large quantities of alcohol. You know that something is institutionalized when there are commonly understood names given to these activities: tea-bagging and elephant walks to name two hazing practices on men’s teams. It isn’t only male athletes hazing younger teammates and classmates. High school and college women’s teams are increasingly engaged in hazing too and much of it is also homophobic. Check out the resource on hazing on the It Takes A Team Resource page.

The problem is that too many male coaches, physical education teachers and school administrators see bullying and hazing as normal and harmless . Is it really just a part of growing up male to have to endure daily taunts and physical assaults in the hope that you get to inflict the same terrorism on the next younger generation. Today’s middle school perpetrators were probably yesterday’s victims.

Is it really necessary to humiliate and bully someone to encourage “team bonding”, which is always used as the rationale for condoning hazing? How pathetic is it that middle school athletes need to assert their power over younger, smaller classmates to feel superior and in control?

Encourage any honest conversation among men about locker rooms, physical education classes and athletic experiences and you soon learn how “normal” and widespread bullying and hazing is and how painful and enduring the memories are.

Any school administrator, coach or parent who has not taken an active part in helping their school institute tough anti-bullying policies and anti-bullying education for staff and students is part of the problem. We can all look at this school in Texas and be appalled at their lack of preparation and response, but what about our schools? How do we know similar incidents of violence tolerated as “normal” hazing aren’t occurring right under our noses in schools where we coach, teach or send our children every day?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

NBC Coverage of Out Gay Olympic Gold Medal Diver A Belly Flop

In a huge upset of the highly favored Chinese divers, Matthew Mitcham, the only publicly out gay man at the Beijing Olympics, won gold. Mitcham completed an almost perfect final dive to clinch the gold medal. Outsports, , GLAAD and others have taken NBC to task for their failure to note that Mitcham is gay during their coverage of the event.

The issue of whether or not to acknowledge an athlete’s sexual orientation is a complicated one. If the athlete is not publicly out, but is gay, I believe the media (and anyone else for that matter) has no right to out her or him. I am a firm believer that making one’s gay, lesbian or bisexual orientation public is a decision that should be in the hands of each person. Even if I am sometimes frustrated that more LGB athletes are not publicly out, it is not right to out them without their consent. There are many reasons why LGB people choose to keep their sexual orientation out of the public eye besides homophobia.

I do have exceptions to this guideline for hypocrites like Ted Haggart or Larry Craig who secretly engage in same-sex activities, but have a high profile anti-gay agenda opposing equal rights for LGBT people. I feel sorry for them, but I also abhor the damage these people do.

Coming out is not equally easy for all LGB people. Lesbian and gay parents sometimes are concerned about child custody battles. LGB people of color face both racism in the LGBT community and homophobia among heterosexual people of color. In a white dominant society, losing friends and family of color is a more complex risk than white LGB people face. Many LGB people cannot afford to lose their jobs or are living in a community where they face real threats of harassment or violence for being perceived as gay. Many LGB athletes are not prepared to face the media scrutiny or distractions being a pioneer often brings. Others fear losing sponsorships or the trust of teammates and coaches or even a place on the team.

All that said, this was not the case with Matthew Mitcham. He had come out publicly before the Games. His coming out was a compelling part of his incredible story at the Olympics. Information about his sexual orientation was freely available to the media and his partner was in Beijing with him and Matthew celebrated his gold medal by going into the stands and kissing him. He did a poolside interview with this mother on one side and his partner on the other. He kissed them both on TV.

NBC has responded with some pretty weak reasons for their silence. Does this mean NBC is homophobic? I do believe that silence is part of homophobia. Silence often goes hand in hand with discomfort about gay, lesbian and bisexual people. Most of us have grown up learning that LGBT topics are taboo or learning that talking about sexual orientation is equivalent to talking about someone’s sex life. Sports commentator feel completely comfortable talking about a heterosexual athlete’s significant other and their children or plans to have children. This happens often with heterosexual women athletes (the disparity between the coverage of heterosexual male and female athlete’s spouses and families is a topic for another day). Immediately after winning the gold in beach volleyball, with the sand still sticking to their exposed bellies, we learned in an NBC interview that both Misty May and Kerri Walsh are planning to make babies with their husbands now that the Olympics are over, for God’s sake. TMI, in my opinion. NBC also covered the search for and recovery of Kerri Walsh’s wedding ring which flew off in the sand during play. Don’t tell me the sexual orientation and personal relationships of heterosexual athletes are not covered. Don’t tell me there is no double standard when a publicly out gay athlete is effectively “ined” by NBC (as opposed to outed, that is.)

In the minds of some people, heterosexual people have spouses and families, lesbian, gay and bisexual people only have sex and that makes these folks uncomfortable. The spouses or dating partners of lesbian and gay people are not given the same status as those of heterosexual athletes. Their families are not seen as equivalent to the families of heterosexual athletes. For some people, gay men and lesbians only have sex partners, not life partners.

I also think there is some confusion on the part of media commentators about what is ok and what is not ok to say with regard to coverage of LGBT issues in sport. This is about ignorance. Even the most supportive people often need help, education, guidance about how to talk about LGBT issues. I’ve found this often in my classes at UMass and in working with coaches and athletes. It is not helpful to just pound them for getting it wrong. Let’s educate them so they can get it right next time: NBC, It is perfectly fine to acknowledge a publicly out LGB athlete’s sexual orientation, partner, or family. In fact, I believe it is a journalist failure not to. Being the only publicly out gay man competing at the Olympics is newsworthy. Winning a gold medal as the only openly gay male competitor is even more newsworthy. It’s not only ok to tell viewers Matthew Mitcham is gay, it is an omission not to. It doesn’t warrant special treatment, but it does warrant an on-air mention. It is a part of Matthew Mitcham’s story.

I am sure that Ted Rybka at the GLAAD Sports Desk is all over this. I have confidence that Ted will be contacting NBC to make some helpful suggestions about how to cover publicly out LGB athletes in the future. It is just a shame that such a wonderful opportunity to talk about a successful and openly gay athlete on the world stage was lost. Whether it was homophobia or ignorance or fear, it is still a shame.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Lauren Lappin, Out Lesbian Olympian: It’s No Big Deal (And It's A Very Big Deal)

Here’s a great story about Lauren Lappin, one of the 13 publicly out lesbian, gay or bi Olympians competing in Beijing. Lauren’s story of coming out, first to herself and then to her family, coaches and teammates and now to the public is a success story on every level. The reactions of everyone close to her have enabled Lauren to be herself and focus on realizing her athletic goals without carrying the burdens of secrecy and fear that go with life in the closet. This is how it should be.

Olympic teammate, shortstop Natasha Watley, summed this up best in the article, "This team is very accepting. We don't care if you're purple, green, from another planet. We just don't care. It's who you are. It's no big deal. Now if Lauren went into a hitting slump, then we'd have a problem." It’s no big deal. That’s the way every team should be. Unfortunately, not all coaches and teams are so accepting, so it is a big deal that it no big deal.

Contrast the responses of Lauren's coaches, teammates and family with what happened in Ponce De Leon, Florida recently. When a student complained that she was being taunted because she is a lesbians, the high school principal told her being gay was wrong and told her to stay away from children. He then scheduled a "morality" assembly for students at the school. When other students supported this student who was taunted, the principal interrogated them about their sexual orientation. The ACLU was called in and a judge ruled that the principal was wrong. The principal was demoted to the classroom (demoted to the classroom?), but apparently some folks in the community and even the school superintendent don't think he did anything wrong. So, yes, teammate, coach and family reactions to Lauren's coming out are still a big deal.

Lauren says she would like to be an “ambassador” to help others through her experience. Lauren, here is an open invitation to work with It Takes A Team! I know we could find ways for you to help other athletes, coaches and families create the kind of respectful and affirming response you’ve enjoyed. I’ll be in touch.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

“The legacy of most elite athletes is to be completely vanilla” John Amaechi

Athletes at all levels are often thought of as apolitical. Many athletes are unwilling to use their visibility to speak out about politics or any other "controversial" topic. Some commentators, John Amaechi among them, have called for athletes in Beijing to speak out publicly about human rights issues in China while they have the world stage.

A German magazine, Suddeutsche Zeitung, made a similar call for the entire German Olympic team to participate in a campaign called, “We are all Chinese.” The focus of the campaign is to call attention to the Chinese government’s violations of human rights and limitations of free speech among Chinese citizens.

Nine German athletes responded by protesting the Chinese Government’s treatment of Chinese dissidents. Among the athletes joining the protest was Imke Duplitzer, the four time Olympic fencer who is also one of the thirteen publicly out gay or lesbian athletes in Beijing (AfterEllen added two more names to the roster of publicly out lesbians competing in Beijing). Duplitizer held a poster of Gao Zhisheng, a Chinese lawyer and human rights activist who has been imprisoned and reportedly tortured by the Chinese government for calling attention to human rights violations in China.

Forty other Olympians from around the world have signed an open letter to the Chinese government protesting human rights violations by the host country. Organizers of the protest letter claim that some athletes have withdrawn their support out of fear of retaliation or backlash.

Amaechi is blogging from Beijing for Amnesty International and providing basketball commentary for the BBC. John is an outspoken advocate for athletes to speak out about human rights or any other social justice issue. Check out his blog for some thoughtful reflections on the Beijing Olympics and athletes as activists.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Lesbian, Gay, Bi Olympians

Outsports and other gay internet sites, like AfterEllen, have noted that the Beijing Olympics include 11 publicly gay, lesbian and bi athletes (at last count). This number includes:

Judith Arndt – Cyclist, Germany
Imke Duplitzer – Fencing , Germany
Vickie Galindo – Softball, USA
Gro Hammerseng – Team Handball, Norway
Katja Nyberg – Team Handball, Norway
Natasha Kai – Soccer, USA
Lauren Lappin – Softball, USA
Matthew Mitcham – Diving, Australia
Victoria Svensson – Soccer, Sweden
Rennae Stubbs – Tennis, Australia
Linda Bresonik – Soccer, Germany

Some things I notice about this list: only one of these 11 athletes is a gay man, all the athletes are from North America, Western Europe and Australia, only four athletes are competing in individual sports, the other 7 are team sport athletes, Gro Hammerseng and Katja Nyberg, the Norwegian Handball players, are also a lesbian couple, Germany and the USA have the most out athletes at 3 each, soccer is the sport with the most publicly out lesbian athletes at 3, one athlete, Vickie Galindo, identifies as bisexual, the rest of the women are lesbians. Natasha Kai and Vickie Galindo are the only athletes of color, I think, but I am not sure of this. As far as I know, there are no transgender athletes competing in Beijing. Canadian cyclist, Kristen Worley, who had hoped to participate, is not part of the Canadian team.

Eleven publicly out athletes out of over 10,000 Olympians seems like a small number and is comparable to the number of out athletes in Athens four years ago. However, given the pressures of world class competition, I understand that many LGB athletes prefer not to call public attention to their sexual orientation during the Games. I assume for every one of these publicly out athletes, there are many more who are quietly competing, if not in the closet, than only out to teammates, friends and family. Let us also remember that for athletes representing countries with laws prohibiting homosexual behavior and for which the penalty can range from imprisonment to death, coming out is not even a choice.

I want to thank these 11 athletes and the many previous out LGB Olympians for choosing to be publicly out about their sexual orientation as they compete on the world stage. They are champions and pioneers. Their choice to be publicly out is a political statement as well as a personal one. They help to pave the way for future Olympians to be open. Competing in the closet takes a lot of energy away from focusing on athletic performance. Pretending to be straight or concealing one’s sexual orientation is a kind of performance that saps the joy from competition and the integrity from relationships with teammates, coaches and fans.

Let’s hope that in 2012 in Great Britain the numbers of publicly out LGBT athletes from all over the world and in all sports is much higher than eleven.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sex Testing at the Olympics

Organizers of the Bejing Olympics have set up a lab to test the sex of women whose femaleness is deemed questionable. This statement raises the hair on the back of my neck. The intention is to catch, what some officials in the Olympic movement call, “man cheats.” They are referring to men who disguise themselves to compete as women.

Never mind that only one instance of such a deception has occurred in the history of the modern Olympics and that was a German man forced to compete as a woman by the Nazis. Never mind that determining a person’s sex by external appearance, chromosomes and genes is not as easy as it seems. Never mind that the test procedure is invasive, humiliating and, according to many medical experts in this area, bad science. Never mind that, rather than rooting out “man cheats,” these sex tests so far have only identified women athletes who have an atypical chromosomal make-up that doesn’t even give them a competitive advantage. Most of the women deemed by these tests to be ineligible to compete as women had no knowledge of their chromosomal difference until they were tested. Medical experts estimate that one in 1,000 babies is intersex, born with atypical chromosome make-up. Many of these intersex people do not have external characteristics that identify them as intersex and live their lives happily without ever knowing.

Prior to the 1968 Olympics sex testing required that women competitors parade nude before a panel of “experts” who decided if the athletes were “really” women based on their physical appearance. In 1968, the testing was “refined” so that all women competitors had to submit to a chromosomal test instead. Finally in 1999, the blanket sex testing of women athletes was eliminated, but the case by case testing of suspect women remains in force.

These “sex verification” tests have done little more than traumatize and humiliate women who have focused a lifetime on competing in the Olympic Games only to find out through a discredited sex test that they are ineligible to compete as women. In almost every case where this has occurred, the test findings were later thrown out. The damage, however, was done, not only to Olympic dreams, but also to a woman’s sense of self and identity. Isn’t there a more effective and respectful means to ensure competitive equity based on current scientific understanding of the complexities of gender and sex than the so-called sex lab in Bejing?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

NCLR Files Discrimination Lawsuit for Lesbian Coaches

NCLR,the fabulous advocacy organization that represented Jennifer Harris in the Rene Portland/Penn State case, has filed a gender and sexual orientation discrimination lawsuit on behalf of two basketball coaches at San Diego Mesa College. The two coaches, Lorri Sulpizio and Cathy Bass are the head and assistant coaches of the women’s basketball team at Mesa. They are also partners in their personal lives.

In a storyline that is becoming all too familiar lately, Lorri Sulpizio lodged a Title IX complaint charging that the women’s program was not receiving equitable treatment. Subsequently, Sulpizio and Bass allege that the AD conducted an investigation to determine their sexual orientation. Finally, in 2007 both coaches were fired without being given any reasons for their termination despite an outstanding record of accomplishment.

The number of retaliation cases in which women coaches allege that they lose their jobs because they complain about Title IX violations in the athletic program has increased dramatically over the last couple of years. In a number of these cases, the retaliation also includes discrimination based on sexual orientation including inflammatory and unsubstantiated charges of sexual improprieties by the women coaches.

It is galling to read about the allegations of blatant discriminatory actions by male athletic directors and coaches in these cases. Thirty-five years after the passage of Title IX women’s programs and women coaches are still facing a wall of stubborn resistance by some male administrators and coaches. In almost every one of these cases, Fresno State, Florida Gulf Coast University, University of California Berkeley, Feather River Community College, the women coaches involved have outstanding records of accomplishments in their sports. This is all the more impressive knowing they have achieved these results despite ill will and a lack of respect from their administrators.

These cases also demonstrate how homophobia becomes a weapon of sexism. In the case of FGCU mixing in homophobic charges of sexual improprieties is intended to discredit women who complain about sex discrimination. In the Mesa College case no such charges have been made against Sulpizio and Bass, but the AD’s alleged attempt to “investigate” their sexual orientation serves the same purpose and clearly shows that he is working on the assumption that lesbian coaches should be purged from athletics no matter how successful and popular they are.

On a related note, as I have written in previous posts, if Sulpizio and Bass were a male/female married coaching team, the Mesa sports information people would probably be falling all over themselves to get the local media to write cute Valentine’s Day stories about the married coaches. No so much for lesbian couples who coach together. Because they are a lesbian couple, this instead becomes a reason for investigation, intimidation and dismissal.

I predict another win for social justice in this case, just as we saw in the Fresno State case. What is it with California anyway? So many of these cases have been in schools there, it makes you wonder. Maybe the women coaches, both heterosexual and lesbian, are just bolder and more inclined to do something about this kind of discrimination. If so, I hope other coaches around the U.S. facing similar situations are watching, listening and feeling empowered to act also.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Nike Pulls “That Ain’t Right” Ads

Nike has pulled the “That Ain’t Right” ads that I talked about in my previous post. In my opinion, this is the right thing to do. It shows a little more respect for your audience and a little more social responsibility. Surely they can come up with something more creative that will sell their shoes, but not pander to homophobia in the process.
Apparently the response to the ads was pretty negative. Now, we have to write to Nike to thank them for pulling the ads. I know some folks will howl about “political correctness”, but it seems to me that these kinds of charges are meant to silence people who speak out in favor of equity and justice. Good for you, Nike, for owning up to your mistake.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Homophobia: Coming Soon to a Billboard Near You

Over the last two weeks Snickers and Nike have produced ads that are provoking some discussion about whether or not the ads are homophobic. In the Snickers ad, a male race walker is blown away by Mr T. (That’s right; remember him from a TV show about 30 years ago?) He uses a Gatling gun to shoot candy at the race walker for being a disgrace to the “man race” because of the hip swiveling characteristic of race walking. Mr. T shouts, “Get some nuts,” as he shoots Snickers (which, of course, contain nuts) at the race walker.

The Nike ad, targeting urban young black male basketball players, is for their new Hyperdunks shoe. The ad features several pictures of basketball players getting dunked on. The most “in your face” (so to speak) picture is of the dunker going so high that the defender gets a face full of the dunker’s crotch. The caption reads, “That Ain’t Right.”

Snickers, Nike and the ad companies who created these ads claim surprise that either of the ads is being interpreted as homophobic. What a crock! They are clearly targeting young men in these ads, young black men in the Nike ad. The least they could do is be honest about their obvious intention to play on the homophobia many young men, especially young black men, feel they must express to be seen as “manly” and straight. In the homophobic world of men’s basketball, what better way to humiliate and demean your opponent than to give his face an up close and personal encounter with your genitals? In the Snickers ad, “gunning down” the sissy with nut filled candy will certainly teach him to man up. In these ads the veiled gay inferences are meant to be synonymous with weak and swishy or getting dominated and humiliated on the basketball court. And this sells candy and athletic shoes?

I think you have to be pretty darned oblivious not to see the homophobic double entendres in these ads. You also have to have pretty big smirk on your face when you claim that there was no homophobic intent in either ad. Bull twang! As my friend from Texas used to say.

Ok, here’s the part where I get to be accused of not having a sense of humor. Let’s just set aside for a moment the fact that these kind of “gay is funny” ads targeting adolescent males or men who act like adolescent males are pathetically hackneyed and reflect a mind-numbing lack of creativity on the part of these multi-million dollar ad agencies and Nike and Snickers.

Instead, let’s ponder this week’s cover story in Newsweek about schools, anti- gay bullying and the murder of a gay middle school student by one of his classmates a few months ago. The apparent motivation for the murder was a sense of outrage and humiliation experienced by the murderer because the very openly gay student thought the murderer was cute and told him so (this story is way more complicated than this, but these are the basic facts).

I am not trying to blame Snickers and Nike for violence against gay people, but do they bear any social responsibility at all for how they try to sell their product? Do they ever wonder how it might feel to be a closeted young gay man seeing these ads with friends or teammates who are yukking it up over the “gay” humor in the ads. I guarantee you that they get the anti-gay overtones. The least Nike and Snickers could do is own up to their craven use of homophobia to sell their products rather than sniggering up their sleeves as they profess amazement that anyone saw any hint of anti-gay intent in these ads.

I’ve never been a big Snickers fan anyway and I don’t buy Nike shoes because of the sweat shop issue, but I will write them a letter. If you agree with me on this, I encourage you to do the same.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Listen to Out Professionals Panel on LGBT People in Sport

The podcast of the June LGBT Sports panel sponsored by Out Professionals in New York is now available for listening on the internet or at iTunes. You can listen by going to the Out Professionals web site and following the link to the podcast there.

The panel was entitled, “25 Years of LGBT Sports.” The panel discussion is one hour long followed by about 30 minutes of questions from the audience. The panel took place in NYC on June 18. The panel moderator was author, Eric Marcus. The panelists were:

Sue Wicks, Former WNBA player for the New York Liberty and now a basketball coach at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, NY

Bill Konigsberg, AP sports writer and author of Out of the Pocket

Mark Larson, Mr. International Gay Rodeo Assn. (2002)

Amy Scheer, VP of Marketing & Communications, Madison Square Garden

Cyd Ziegler, Co-Founder of

Donna Lopiano, Former CEO, Women’s Sports Foundation and Softball Hall of Famer

Pat Griffin, Director of It Takes A Team! and author of Strong Women, Deep Closets

Monday, July 14, 2008

Honoring Jackie Walker

Jackie Walker was a two-time All-American football star at the University of Tennessee in the early 70’s. He was also captain of the team. He was the first Black SEC All-American. Why, you may ask, with this outstanding record of accomplishment, has it taken 40 years for Jackie Walker to be inducted in the Greater Knoxville Hall of Fame?

Could it be because Jackie Walker was also a gay man? Though Hall of Fame officials deny that his sexual orientation had any part in their failure to honor this outstanding athlete since he became eligible for induction in 1976, it is difficult to imagine a heterosexual athlete with similar credentials being overlooked in the way Jackie Walker has been.

On Thursday night he will finally receive the long overdue recognition to which he is entitled. Unfortunately, Jackie Walker died of AIDS in 2002 and will not be there to accept the honor.

Read this wonderful column in the Knoxville News Sentinel about Jackie Walker and his induction into the Hall of Fame.

Though times are changing for gay and lesbian athletes and many are more are open with their teammates and coaches about their sexual orientation, Jackie Walker’s story reminds us of how deserving athletes can be discriminated against despite their accomplishments. Jackie Walker was a Black man who broke racial barriers in Tennessee sports. He was an outstanding athlete who broke records on the field. By all accounts he was also a man of great character, but because he was gay, his accomplishments were ignored. Being gay and dying of AIDS were enough to cancel out everything else about his exemplary life.

Being a Black football player in the 1970’s in the Tennessee must have been a challenge. Being a Black gay football player must have been a very lonely life indeed. Jackie Walker had to contend with both racism and heterosexism and this makes his accomplishments on and off the football field even more honorable.

I suppose his posthumous induction, 40 years after he became eligible, is a good sign; a sign that times are changing. I can’t help feel sadness though, thinking about the loneliness and outrage that Jackie Walkers might have felt. A Black gay football player who proved he was tougher and more talented than his heterosexual teammates watching them be honored over those many years while he was passed over again and again. Sometimes things just can’t be completely set right.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Dangers of Auto-Replace

I know this is a week old now, but I just have to comment on the hilarious story I read while I was away last week about the American Family Association (AFA) and their embarrassing mistake with using the auto-replace function on their computer. The AFA is a Christian anti-gay organization famous for several unsuccessful boycotts efforts to try to force corporate America and media to stop acknowledging that gay Americans are consumers who deserve equal treatment.

It seems that the AFA refuses to use the word “gay” on their news web site. Instead they prefer the quaint “homosexual” when referring to non-heterosexual folks. To save time, they apparently use the auto-replace function to change the word “gay” to “homosexual” in all of the news stories posted on their web site, One News Now. I guess this was working fine for them until they decided to cover the Olympic track and field trials last week.

The problem was that one of the top sprinters for the U.S. is named Tyson Gay. The AFA auto-replace did its job and here are some excerpts from their coverage of the trials:

"Tyson Homosexual was a blur in blue, sprinting 100 meters faster than anyone ever has. His time of 9.68 seconds at the U.S. Olympic trials Sunday doesn't count as a world record, because it was run with the help of a too-strong tailwind."

"Here's what does matter: Homosexual qualified for his first Summer Games team and served notice he's certainly someone to watch in Beijing."

"It means a lot to me," the 25-year-old Homosexual said. "I'm glad my body could do it, because now I know I have it in me."

The AFA quickly took the embarrassing post down, but not soon enough to avoid becoming the laughing stock of bloggers and other media everywhere. It isn’t often when I think these narrow-minded folks are funny, but please add my name to list of folks who got a chuckle out of their little blunder.

Monday, June 30, 2008

On The Road Yet Again!

I’m off to VA, DC and MD tomorrow and will not be blogging again until next week. I’m the keynote speaker for the National Education Association LGBT Caucus dinner in DC on Saturday evening. They have confirmed 700 tickets sold for the dinner and dance to follow. I wish I could claim that these 700 people bought their tickets to hear what I have to say, but, alas, no. The main attraction is the dinner and dancing. I play a small part in the evening.

My goal, however, is to be as entertaining as I can be in about 15-20 minutes as I provide them with some information about homophobia in school sports, the fab resources we have at and the roles they can play to make athletics a safe and respectful place for LGBT students in their school.

I’ll talk to you next week. In the meantime, I hope your July 4th is safe and fun.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Dreams of A Techno-Challenged Homophobia in Sport Educator

A Sociology of Gender class at Penn State University has posted several public service announcements on YouTube that are very interesting. I found one about homophobia in sport featuring several male athletes at Penn State talking about their reactions to having a gay teammate.

Short clips like this with actual athletes talking about their attitudes are great educational tools. I’ve been thinking of doing something like this myself but am held back by my marginal technical skills. I am working on this and hope to be able to create and post similar clips on YouTube and the It Takes A Team web site soon. It would be a great way to spark conversations with coaches and athletes about LGBT issues in sport as well as a great way to educate the public. I’d like to feature men and women, gay and straight, athletes and coaches talking about specific issues within the broad topic of homophobia in sport: relationships on teams, Christian athletes and lesbian and gay athletes on teams, anti-gay name-calling, stereotypes of lesbian and gay athletes, negative recruiting, inclusion of trans athletes, issues LGBT athletes of color face…the list of ideas is endless.

I see a summer project developing…You, dear blog reader, can help me out. What kind of topics would you like to see addressed in a series of PSAs on LGBT issues in sport?

Monday, June 16, 2008

On The Road Again

I’m on the road this week and probably won’t post anything until next week. I was in Boston this weekend attending the Center for the Study of Sport and Society’s Power of Sport Summit. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet with other activists, educators and scholars from around the USA who are committed to social justice in sport. I got home yesterday just in time to pack some fresh clothes and I’m off to New York for a meeting at the Women’s Sports Foundation today and then participate in a panel sponsored by the Out Professionals on Celebrating 25 years of LGBT Sports History on Wednesday. Have a great week.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Washington State Adopts Policy on Transgender High School Athletes

Stepping in where no interscholastic or intercollegiate sport governing body has yet to tread, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) has developed the first in the nation policy governing the participation of transgender athletes in high school sports. Kudos to the WIAA and the many consulting organizations who worked on this ground-breaking policy. We plan to post the policy on the It Takes A Team! web site as soon as we get all the bugs out of our new web site format (I debated with myself and decided to go ahead and blog about this even though I know it might be frustrating to not actually see the policy). You can check out the It Takes A Team! resource on including transgender athletes in the meantime.

Though the International Olympic Committee, in 2003, adopted the first ever policy establishing criteria for transsexual athletes to participate in the Olympics, the policy has been widely criticized by athletes like Canadian Olympic hopeful, Kristen Worley and professional golfer Mianne Bagger as well as others in the transgender rights movement.

The IOC policy, known as the Stockholm Consensus, is focused primarily on male to female transitions and focuses on completing a surgical transition as a criterion for participation. Even so, the United State Golf Association and USA Track & Field have adopted the IOC policy . The Gay Games Federation and the Gay and Lesbian International Sport Association (GLISA) have also adopted policies enabling transgender/transitioned athletes to compete in the Gay Games and the OutGames.

The NCAA, unfortunately, has stuck to their position that athletes must compete in the gender indicated on their official documents: Driver’s license, birth certificate, or passport). This policy has many problems and is one lawsuit away from disaster in my opinion. It’s disappointing that the NCAA appears to be taking a reactive rather a proactive stance on this issue.

Because interscholastic and intercollegiate athletics have eligibility limits, unlike Olympic or professional athletes, school policy governing the participation of transgender athletes needs to be different. Plus, the short-comings of the IOC policy in general call out for a more thoughtful and practical second try at policy development, especially one that applies to high school and college athletics.
Enter the WIAA. It is notable and impressive that this state association has taken on the task of developing a policy that will serve as a model for, not only other state high school athletic associations, but for collegiate athletics as well.

The WIAA worked with several groups and individuals over several months to develop and revise this policy including the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Washington State Human Rights Commission, the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, Advocates for Informed Choice and the Colorado High School Activities Association.

The collaborative process of developing the policy and the actual policy itself are models for other interscholastic and intercollegiate athletic associations to follow. Thank you, Washington State, for your leadership in addressing this emergent social justice issue in sport.

What policy does your school have governing the participation of transgender/transitioned athletes?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Lesbian Baseball Fans Kissing Blamed for Onset of Little Known Anxiety Disorder

Seattle - Last week a mother attending a Seattle Mariners game at Safeco Field had an apparent attack of “Lesbian Public Display of Affection Hypersensitivity Disorder” (LPDAHD) when she witnessed two lesbian fans “kissing and groping” (her description) in the stands. Her attack led her to complain to a Mariners “seating host” about the PDA that brought on her attack because she said she did not know how to explain it to her son who was also at the game. I should explain here that one of the most common side effects of LPDAHD is disorientation that results in a sudden inability to answer children’s questions about why on earth two people would kiss in public.

Unfortunately the “seating host” was also a LPDAHD sufferer who immediately sought relief by telling the offending sapphites to stop kissing because their untoward behavior was bringing on allergic reactions from other fans who struggle with LPDAHD. Imagine the outrage when the lesbians were insensitive enough to insist that, a) the PDA was only a “peck on the check” not “groping,” b) many other heterosexual couples at the game were engaging in similar public displays of affection and they were not asked to stop, and c) they would not stop even though their behavior was causing emotional distress for the lesbian-challenged mom.

A recent study by a respected medical doctor shows that LPDAHD sufferers have a tendency to amplify or exaggerate their perceptions of PDAs when they witness these activities among women. This doctor has developed the “PDA Conversion Scale” to help LPDAHD sufferers understand their warped perceptions when in the throes of a full blown LPDAHD attack. I present it here for you now:

Two lesbians sitting close together = A heterosexual couple holding hands

Two lesbians pecking each other on the cheek = A heterosexual couple tonsil tickling
with their tongues

Two lesbians with their arms around each other = A heterosexual couple groping and

Two lesbians kissing passionately = A heterosexual couple having sex in public

It is commonly understood by many medical authorities that attendance at athletic contests is likely to precipitate another more prevalent anxiety disorder, Homophobic Tourette’s Syndrome (HTS). HTS is more common among heterosexual men and is likely related to testosterone poisoning which is brought on by being in close proximity to large groups of other heterosexual men, such as is the case at athletic contests. Sufferers of HTS are prone to blurting out words like “homo” or “faggot” at sporting events when referring to members of the opposing team.

Whereas LPDAHD has been considered serious enough that the lesbian PDAs provoking the onset of LPDAHD at sports arenas must be stopped immediately, HTS is generally more tolerated by other fans and sports arena personnel and no known cure exists.

The next time you are attending a sporting event and find yourself hyperventilating at the sight of two lesbians kissing or holding hands, maybe you should ask your doctor if “Get a Life” is right for you.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

LGBTQ Athletes Are Doin’ It For Themselves

It seems like forming LGBT student-athlete groups is an idea whose time has finally come. Times have changed enough and there are enough openly gay collegiate athletes so that groups are beginning to spring up at schools around the country.

I tried to start one at UMass back in the 80’s. It was all women. We met in the basement of my house around a wood stove and ate cookies and drank coke while everyone talked about what it was like for them to be a lesbian on their teams. None of them were publicly out and none of them were interested in being publicly out at that point in their lives. We were strictly a support group. We met a few times and then the school year ended and so did the group. What I learned was that the lesbian athletes had their own closeted social network within athletics with athletes from several teams, plus non-athlete friends who all partied together. They were not ready for activism or challenging homophobia in the athletic department.

I worked with some other UMass staff and an athlete again about five years ago to start another group, which we called a gay-straight athlete alliance. We had a web site and everything. We met a few times and then the school year ended, the athlete who was the driving force behind the group graduated and the group stopped meeting.

In 2002 two student-athletes at the University of Pennsylvania, Paul Farber (track) and Karrie Moore (lacrosse)started a group called PATH - Penn Athletes and Allies Tackling Homophobia. This group is still active as far as I know. It is listed as a resource on the Penn LGBT center web page. They sponsor discussions, panels, social events for LGBT athletes and allies. PATH was a student-athlete initiated group that has had some good success on their campus.

I know of similar groups recently organizing at Vassar College and Purdue University. It makes sense. More LGBTQ athletes are out and looking for support, resources and ways to challenge homophobia in athletics. I’ve learned by working with athletes and coaches that the athletes are waaay ahead of their coaches on this topic. I believe that LGBTQ student-athletes and their straight teammates who are allies are the ones who will change sport more than one or two professional athletes coming out ever can.

Andrew Langenfeld is a swimmer on the Purdue team and he is gay. Andrew is not satisfied with just starting an LGBTQ student-athlete group at Purdue. He has a plan for developing a national network of LGBTQ athletes and hopes to organize a “summit” of interested athletes to develop this network. Andrew has contacted me, Mac Chinsomboon from the Gay and Lesbian Athletic Foundation, Ted Rybka from the GLAAD Sports Desk, among others, to seek advice and assistance with his vision. The page he has put up on Facebook for the group has already quadrupled in numbers. Andrew has organized a steering committee of men and women athletes who are working with him to make this network happen.

I think this is so cool. I’m getting to the age now where I sometimes feel like the student-athletes I talk to must look at me as if it’s their old dyke grandmother talking to them about homophobia. I guess this is not all bad, dyke grandmothers do have a long range perspective on things, but I think peer-initiated activism and leadership is so powerful and important. Andrew is taking that leadership and he has some incredible ideas. I just hope ol’ granny can help him to make them a reality.

Are you a coach, athlete or staff member in athletic department? Do you know of student-athletes who would be interested in working with Andrew or starting an LGBTQ student-athlete group at your school? If so, let me know, Granny Griffin can connect you with the resources and people to join a very exciting movement.