Monday, February 11, 2008

Getting Loud and Being Proud at Cal-Berkeley

One of the enduring issues in women’s sports, at both the professional and collegiate levels, is the reluctance to acknowledge lesbian fans. Some teams, like the NY Liberty, have gone as far as add extra security when they got wind of an informal plan among lesbian fans to increase their visibility at games. A few years ago, the Sacramento monarchs, who routinely acknowledge community groups attending the game over the public address system, refused to acknowledge the attendance of a lesbian group because the word “Dyke” was part of their name.

It took the WNBA several years before some teams began to promote games in LGBT media and actively seek out lesbian fans at LGBT pride events and community gathering places. The LPGA still does not embrace the lavender ladies who line the fairways. Attend any women’s competition in most sports, however, and it is clear that lesbians and their families are enthusiastic and loyal sports fans. How could it be anything but homophobia to ignore a significant part of a sport’s fan base?

A few major league baseball teams have begun sponsoring “Gay Day” once during the season, but as far as I know no other men’s professional sports and no men’s collegiate sports have sponsored anything that acknowledges the presence of LGBT fans.

As far as women’s collegiate sports go, few schools make any serious attempts to attract or capitalize on support from the local lesbian and gay community. That is why the University of California women’s basketball game vs. the University of Arizona on February 16 is a real landmark. UC-Berkeley has declared this game “GLBT Pride Day” and, on their publicity poster for the day, they invite LGBT fans to “get loud and be proud.” The poster goes on to invite everyone to “join Cal Women’s Basketball in celebrating the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community and embracing our diversity.” The poster, complete with rainbow flags, is posted on the UC-Berkeley athletics ticket page on the Athletic Department web page. The event is also advertised in the Bay Area Reporter, the local LGBT newspaper.

I think this is a first in women’s collegiate basketball. If I’m wrong, I’d like to know where else schools are sponsoring LGBT Days and advertising the event on the Official Athletic Department web site. I’d love to give credit to all schools who are embracing their LGBT fans as Cal-Berkeley is. Here is a big shout out to Cal Women’s Basketball. If you live in the Bay area, I encourage you to go to the game and call the athletic department and Coach Boyle to let them know you appreciate this event.

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