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.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this blog. To me it was a happy discovery in 2009.

Pat Griffin said...

EC, thanks. I love to know the blog is getting a read. Pat

Anonymous said...

Don't stop posting such themes. I like to read stories like this. Just add some pics :)