Monday, December 26, 2011

Opening the Last Closet

Dee Mosbacher and Fawn Yawker, the producers of the outstanding video documentary, Training Rules, are at it again. They asked if I would post the following on my blog:

The producers of a web campaign and video project in progress - The Last Closet - are searching for a young gay athlete (Jr. High or lower grade High School) who has dreams of becoming a pro. This young man would be “out” to his friends, family and team.

There has never been, in all of US sports history, a gay athlete in any of the top five professional sports, who has come out publicly while they are still actively playing. Our film and web campaign is a quest to find out why this is so and a vehicle to pave the way for this historic event to unfold.

Our young athlete would act as co-interviewer on some of our strategic shoots, including the commissioners of all five sports. We have already secured interviews with some well known players and others in the sports world.

The Last Closet, is being produced by Woman Vision - producer of ten award winning documentaries, including the Academy Award nominated "Straight from the Heart” and most recently the highly acclaimed “Training Rules”.

If you know of anyone fits the description above please contact us at your earliest convenience.


Fawn Yacker at -

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The N-Word: Not Racist Anymore?

This is a story about insensitivity, stupidity and racism all rolled up in one high school girls' basketball team. It seems that the girls had a pregame locker room ritual cheer which went like this, "1-2-3 N-Word," only they said the N-word rather than using this "polite company" variation. What, you might ask, does this have to do with basketball or getting the team psyched for the game. I have no idea. You'd have to ask the team.

When the one black girl on the team objected to the chant, her white teams told her it was just a joke and that they were not racist. Really? You could've fooled me.

Anyway, the whole thing came to light when the black player had a fist fight with one of her teammates in the school hallway over it. She also told school officials that the team used racist slurs during practice directed at her. The team was suspended for two days. The black player was suspended for fighting for five days. Hmmmm. The team also has to undergo "cultural sensitivity" training. How about a racism awareness training instead.

This news report is interesting in that a former player who is biracial is interviewed in the video and defends her former teammates. I wonder how the reporter came up with the idea of featuring this student excusing the use of a racist slur. It puts an interesting spin on the story. Is this some new and warped kind of "equal time"?

I wonder where the coach was during practice or in the locker room when the pregame chants were used? She was not available for an interview for the article. She should have been front and center making it clear that she would not condone this kind of behavior on her team and saying what she is going to do to make sure that nothing like this happens again. Instead she is MIA. What a missed opportunity for the girls' team to get something right.

After a week of sports news about pedophile coaches, brawling basketball players and performance enhancing drug using baseball players, I guess a little racism on a girls' basketball team rounds out the picture of what's wrong in sports quite nicely, don't you think?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Reflections on the Death of a Young Black Lesbian Athlete

It is difficult to put my white, middle class, middle-aged and lesbian feet in the basketball shoes of a young black lesbian athlete from the projects. I know nothing about what Tayshana Murphy’s life was like. I do know something about keeping secrets. I hid my own lesbian identity for years before coming out in my 20s. However, I had the advantage of class and race privilege to help buffer the effects of the homophobia I faced as a young lesbian athlete. I did not live with violence in my neighborhood on a daily basis. I lived in a home where my parents were comfortably able to provide for my brother and I. When I looked around at my classmates in school, most of their faces were white like mine and their families also enjoyed similar middle class status. Most of us assumed we would go to college. I could afford to be oblivious to the challenges facing the few classmates of color I had.

I wrote about Tayshana's murder in early October when I first learned about it. In this insightful article, Mecca Jamilah Sullivan invites us all to ponder the effects of racism, sexism, classism and homophobia and their interconnected impact on young black women athletes from the projects. The tragedy of Tayshana’s senseless murder is evident in the loss of a talented young woman athlete who had the potential to leave the cycle of poverty and violence that most of her classmates will never escape. The hidden tragedy that Mecca Jamilah Sullivan invites us to think about is that Tayshana’s murder is largely unnoticed outside her local community.

She asks, “What are the relationships between athlete culture and LGBTQ identity for youth of color in 2011? Why does the principle of the open secret persist for youth athletes, even as institutional structures like ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ long convicted in the court of public opinion, have finally fallen away? And what are the roles of race in all of this? We know white men’s lives and deaths get wildly disproportionate media coverage, but what happens when responsible journalism means frank discussions of sexuality, outness, and homophobic violence? If Murphy had been white, or male, would we know more of her story? And would more people know about her in general?”

Advocates for LBGT athletes and coaches must make a commitment to think beyond our own personal experience. Men must understand the role of sexism as it affects the experiences of lesbians and bisexual women in sport. White people must examine how racism mixed with homophobia make the experience of LGBT athletes and coaches different from those of us who can ignore racism even as we benefit from it. Those of us who have enough food, safety, shelter and access to financial resources need to ask ourselves what we are going to do in response to Tayshana’s death? How will we make sure this kind of tragedy never happens again.

We can make all the “It Gets Better” videos in the world, but how will they touch the lives of young women like Tayshana who probably don’t even have access to a computer to watch them? Every time we speak out, we need to consider how race, class and gender filter the experiences of young LGBT people and make sure our interventions take into account the challenges they face. We owe it to the memory of Tayshana and to the future of her sisters whose names we do not even know.