Wednesday, December 30, 2009

On A Short Break

I'll be back next week with new posts. I'm taking a little break for the holidays. Happy New Year everyone!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The End of An Era – It Takes A Team

It is with sadness that I am passing on the news that the Women’s Sports Foundation has eliminated my position as director of the It Takes A Team initiative at the conclusion of my contract in the end of January. I have directed ITAT for five years and worked closely with it for three years before that. During that time, we have developed the best set of up-to-date online resources for addressing LGBT issues in high school and college athletics. It Takes A Team also developed collaborative relationships with 18 national education, advocacy and athletic organizations and produced a successful monthly eletter with over 3000 subscribers. We’ve worked with hundreds of coaches, student-athletes and athletic administrators across the U.S. to assist them in making sport teams safe and respectful for all athletes regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In the process we’ve distributed hundreds of our DVDs, posters, safe zone stickers and other educational materials to schools and individuals. I’m proud of what we have accomplished with minimal resources. The resources we have developed will still be available on the Women's Sports Foundation web site.

I want to thank everyone who has supported ITAT and worked with me to get ITAT resources into the hands of people who can make a difference in schools. I especially want to recognize the close and successful collaborations ITAT has enjoyed with the National Center for Lesbian Rights Sports Project and its director, Helen Carroll. Helen and I refer to ourselves as the Frick and Frack of homophobia in sport and often have joked that people in athletics could see me for education or see Helen for litigation. We love being a 1-2 punch against discrimination and ignorance in sport.

As I look to what’s next for me I can promise that I plan to stay in the game. That is, I have lots of energy and commitment to continuing my work on LGBT issues in sport. It Takes A Team will end, but my work on LGBT issues in sport will continue. I just need to identity what that work will look like in the future. For sure I plan to continue blogging so that will go on uninterrupted. I’ll have to keep you posted on the rest.

Finally, I want to wish everyone best wishes for this winter holiday season. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hannukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, Three King’s Day or just like to reflect on the end of the year, may you find peace, love, health and happiness. See you in the new year.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Amelie Mauresmo Retires

French pro tennis player, Amelie Mauresmo, retired last week. Amelie was one of several women professional tennis players to come out publicly as a lesbian. What set her coming out apart from the others is that she came out at the beginning of her career. Most professional athletes, men and women, come out in the twilight of their careers or after they have retired. She is one of the few professional athletes who has played most of her career as a publicly out lesbian. Downhill bike racer, Missy Giove, also comes to mind. Here is an article that provides a little more information than most about Amelie’s coming out as well as more information about her beyond her tennis records. She sounds like someone I’d like to sit down with and have a conversation over a good bottle of French wine. Best wishes, Amelie. We will miss you.

Lesbian Basketball Coach Wins Case

In October I gave an update on three pending lawsuits in women’s sports about discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation. One of these cases has now been decided and the lesbian coach who filed the lawsuit won.

Lorri Sulpizio, the women’s basketball coach at Mesa Community College in San Diego charged that she was fired in retaliation for her complaints about gender inequities in the athletic program at Mesa. She also alleged that she was fired because she is a lesbian. Lorri and her partner, Cathy Bass, who was the Head of Basketball Operations, were featured in a news story about lesbian families not long before they were both fired.

The jury awarded Sulpizio $28,000 which is the equivalent of her salary for one year finding that she was retaliated against for her advocacy of gender equity. The charges of discrimination based on sexual orientation were not upheld. The Title IX Blog has a good discussion of these results and has some thoughts on why this part of the lawsuit was not as strong.

Though the $28,000 seems like a small judgment compared to some of the recent awards at Fresno or Gulf Coast, this decision is another victory in a string of cases that clearly send the message that schools that retaliate against coaches who speak up about sex discrimination in sport will pay the price in bad publicity and financial payouts.

Congratulations to NCLR, who represented Sulpizio, for another great victory.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Thoughtful Reflection on Gender from Mechelle Voepel

Here is a thoughtful reflection (part 4 in a series of reflections on gender and sport) by sports writer extraordinaire, Mechelle Voepel. I recommend you read it. Nuff said.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Grace Under Pressure Indeed! Girl’s Ice Hockey Team Scores Goal Against Homophobia

I wrote about this high school girls ice hockey team in New Brunswick, Canada a few weeks ago. The Woodstock Thunder stood up against the homophobic reactions of some of their opponents when two teammates came out as gay. This article describes some of the homophobic reactions they got and their incredibly mature and courageous stand against anti-gay bigotry and for their lesbian teammates.

The Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women in Sport and Physical Activity presented the Thunder with its “Grace Under Pressure” award. This is a very prestigious award previously only given to Olympians. I can’t think of a more deserving group of athletes. These young women are an inspiration to teams everywhere about what concepts like “team” and “unity” really mean.

For men and women athletes and coaches, from high school to the pros who have negative reactions to having gay teammates or playing against gay players on the other team, read this and learn. Thanks to CAAWS for honoring these young women.

It does take a team to make sports welcoming for all and that is exactly what the Woodstock Thunder did. Congratulations!