TAG | Pat Griffin
Metro Weekly, Washington, D.C.’s Gay & Lesbian News Magazine, called yesterdays “Night Out with the Nationals” a Grand Slam.
From a sports fans perspective, that certainly would be true: the Washington Nationals scored five runs in the bottom of the 9th inning, capped by a walk-off home run, to beat the Seattle Mariners 6-5.
From the perspective of those that appreciate progress for visibility of the LGBT community in sports, it was also a grand slam.
I’ve written before that, while I appreciate these “Pride Nights” even if they are just gimmicks to sell tickets, I’ll be especially encouraged when the events feature and recognize the LGBT community more prominently.
To date, the NBA’s Golden State Warriors were the shining example.
The Washington Nationals join the list of teams that went above and beyond to celebrate the LGBT community, and for that, I am thankful.
Metro Weekly reports that the event brought in more than 3,400 LGBT fans (see photos from the event here) and featured a slew of participation from some well known LGBT folk:
“The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington sang the national anthem. Amanda Simpson, the first openly transgender presidential employee, presented the Nationals’ lineup to the umpire. Daniel Hernandez, the gay intern who helped save the life of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), threw out the first pitch. And Washington Post opinion writer Jonathan Capehart opened the game with the magic words, ”Let’s play ball!””
Additionally, I know that Pat Griffin, who writes the blog “It Takes A Team” and is one of the most well-known scholars for Title IX and gender/sexuality issues in sports, was in attendance to receive an award on behalf of GLSEN’s Changing the Game campaign.
[EDIT:] Metro Weekly made an excellent video from the event:
I believe the next “Pride Nights” are in the MLS, with Chivas USA in Los Angeles (with Outsports co-sponsoring!) and the Columbus Crew hosting games on July 23. I’ll keep an eye out to see how those events go.
While the addition of letters to the communal acronym is often hard to follow and many will argue about what is most proper (LGBTQQI even leaves out some letters, and generally, I subscribe to the group using LGBT as a simplified, acceptable form), the additions are for good reason:
Each letter represents something that is clearly distinguishable within the scope of sex, gender, and sexual orientation. Each letter is important because they show that we’re starting to truly recognize these distinctions. The sooner we acknowledge the individual letters within the community and within society at large, the more we will be prepared to find solutions for issues like intersex people competing in sports, what bathrooms Trans youth should use, etc. without being sidetracked by basic premises.
Sean Bugg wrote an excellent piece for Metro Weekly titled, “When it comes to transphobia, gays and lesbians still have a lot to learn.” Bugg put his pride aside and admitted something that the most of the GLB of the community should admit: the ‘T’ issues (and I’ll include the ‘I’) are often foreign to us as well. Understandably, we battled different social pressures (sexual orientation versus gender/sex). But the GLB in the community definitely needs to work harder to embrace the ‘T’ and ‘I’.
Do not feel ashamed if you’re a little stunted in your own knowledge and perceptions, because you are not alone. For the 6+ years I lived in Southern California and Texas, I’d say 90% of my friends were gay. But I can’t think of a single Trans (gender or sexual) person I knew. Only since volunteering at the Kaleidoscope Youth Center have I started to interact with Trans people more regularly. And while talking about KYC, these Trans youth are more brave and courageous than any child should ever be asked to be.
I am fortunate to have a very socially conscious and insists-to-be-accurate roommate that has really challenged my own ignorance and helped me to become more informed. He corrects me when I need to be corrected and answers tricky questions about how to accurately distinguish people. (Assuming distinguishing is necessary; he prefers the all-encompassing “queer” label for the community, but I find that to have a little too much negative sound to it.)
Some quick basics that must be stated: intersex is different than transgender, sex does not always match gender, and transgender and transsexual have nothing to do with sexual orientation.
We set up a society of dichotomies, but as a species, we are far from it.
Through my carousing of news lately, I have read several articles relating to the Trans community. Many of the articles, and especially the comments, use terms inaccurately and confuse sex, gender, and sexual orientation. A perfect example in the article about which bathroom Trans youth should be allowed to use: the random Christian group voicing their opinion said “[the new guidelines] represent the latest effort by the homosexual lobby to impose their confused views of sexuality on society at large.”
Sorry, but the truly “confused view of sexuality” is the one that assigns sex and gender at birth when there are ambiguities in genitalia.
Read the comments to that same article for a disturbing smack-in-the-face of misconceptions, ignorance, and bigotry.
More ignorance: Transgender issue leads club to cancel membership. In justifying this course of action, the country club wrote in a letter to Rachael Gieschen, the uninvited member: “Other members’ comments support the conclusion that, although you are now a woman, members will be uncomfortable regardless of which locker rooms or rest rooms you use.”
Look, I recognize that these subjects will make people uncomfortable at first. But first and foremost, legally and sexually, Gieschen is a female and a woman. Second, get over it. Whites were uncomfortable mixing with blacks 50 years ago. Hell, pathetically, that racial discomfort survives in far too many environments today.
But when you challenge your personal prejudices and perceptions, you learn that you were uncomfortable for no other reason than unfamiliarity.
I hope you have a bit more familiarity after reading this and challenge you to continue to familiarize yourself with the ‘T’ and the ‘I’. And I hope you continue to challenge me to do the same.
Tomorrow, May 17th is the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO). In the U.S. several cities have scheduled “kiss-ins”. People gathered to kiss at “the bean” in Chicago today; more will do the same at the base of the famous red stairs in Times Square in New York City tomorrow. San Francisco, St. Louis, Austin, Portland, and other cities are doing, or did, the same (list of cities here). Oddly, there are none scheduled in the state of Idaho.
The main reason I write is because the Canadian organization, Fondation Émergence, which sets a theme each year, chose “Speaking about Silence: Homophobia in the Sports World” for 2010.
I absolutely love the goals for their campaign. From their February 4 press release: “The campaign aims to speak about the sports world’s reigning silence on everything related to sexual diversity, and to call on all those involved: educational institutions, the media, professional and amateur sports organisations, sponsors, gay men and lesbians, sexual minorities, and public authorities.”
The timing of that message could not come at a better time, at least from my perspective. Considering that the sports media completely dodged the opportunity (I’d actually consider it an obligation) to speak on sexuality and homophobia in the Dez Bryant and Geno Atkins situations, I applaud Fondation Émergence’s campaign.
And I agree that the messages of diversity, tolerance, and inclusion need to proliferate to all levels of the industry: from the media, to the player’s unions, to professional organizations, to university athletic directors, to high school teams, to little leagues, to parents.
The Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity is also on board with the campaign with their own Call to Action. My favorite point is encouraging people to read the “Action Guides” from Pat Griffin, who I’d consider to be an expert on these topics (her blog here). CAAWS’s site links Griffin’s “guides for athletes, coaches, sport organizations and parents to make sport more welcoming.”
The sports world would be a better place if every coach, executive, parent, and player read those guides. And no matter what you do, whether you like sports or not, do what you can to fight homophobia tomorrow (and every day). And if you need any extra motivation, go look up the statistics on the disproportionate rate that GLBTQ teens commit suicide or are homeless. What you do is important and can make more of a difference than you know.
KCRW, the leading National Public Radio affiliate in southern California, had an excellent 30 minute segment today discussing homophobia in sport. Diana Nyad, who narrated the documentary Training Rules, the story about homophobia and anti-gay recruiting in women’s basketball at Penn State, hosted the conversation that included some excellent, articulate, and educated guests on the subject.
Guests for the discussion were:
- Dee Mosbacher, who created the Training Rules film;
- Billy Bean, gay former Major League Baseball player whose story can be found in his biography “Going the Other Way,” and
- Pat Griffin, who, in my opinion, is the most knowledgeable person in the country on homophobia in collegiate sports (Check out her blog, “It Takes a Team” – I read it frequently)
The discussion delved specifically into the unfortunate situation that took place at Penn State: how and why it even happened, what it will take for a player to come out, a few of the differences between male and female sports, the receptiveness from the NCAA and other sources on the topic, and so much more.
You can download the segment here in mp3 format (13mb file).
Or you can listen to it directly here.
Or you can find out more about the segment and the radio station here.
In part one of these coaching questions, spurred by a Washington DC high school hiring female head football coach, we considered whether women can coach men. The next natural question to consider is whether a gay or a lesbian can/should coach.
This question raises many of the same questions as whether a woman can coach men—whether they can fill the “role” the coach is expected to be (would they be saying a gay man cannot be the father-figure too?)—while certainly raising new asinine questions. Undoubtedly, those opposed to having a gay coach would raise the archaic and incorrect perceptions that pair homosexuality and pedophilia. They would kick and scream about the logistics of locker rooms, showers, and the like.
Well, first, homosexuality and those that abuse children are completely different things, and second, there are plenty of female teams with male head coaches that can deal with the logistics of showering, etc. Most famously, or at least the first that comes to mind, is Geno Auriemma coach of the University of Connecticut Lady Huskies, who are currently on an incredible 74 game win streak. Correction: 75 game win streak; they just beat Iowa State 38 in the Sweet 16.
That Uconn story has been amazing in general sports terms, but to answer the question at hand, the best story from this year’s women’s basketball tournament has to be about Sherri Murrell. You see, Sherri Murrell is the ONLY openly gay or lesbian coach in division 1 basketball, and she led her Portland State team to the tournament by winning the Big Sky division.
Pat Griffin, who is the most knowledgeable person I know on the lesbian presence in sport, especially at the collegiate level, wrote this article on her blog. Griffin’s article links to a Question and Answer with Murrell which is phenomenal: it considers so many of the important issues that you would expect with having a lesbian coach.
I’d encourage you to read the entire Q&A, but here are the segments I consider most applicable.
Why do you think you’re the only out coach in the NCAA?
“I can’t speak for others, but I can speak for myself. There is a fear of the unknown. A fear of job loss, fear of rejection from players, from parents, from boosters. There’s the fear of many different things. So for me, I had to get past the fear of those unknowns and be true to myself. […]
“Well, one of the unknowns is, you may not be fired from your job, but it may ruin your career. There’s a lot of negative recruiting going on right now. There’s big dollars attached to women’s sports now. Negative recruiting is when a coach can’t say enough good about their program that they have to put down another program. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of young women that believe it. I think the negative recruiting is the strongest fear. You may not lose your job because of discrimination, but you may lose your job because all the sudden people are saying, don’t go to that program because coach is a lesbian and then boom the program goes downhill. You lose your job because the program is not successful.”
Are there programs out there still that have no lesbian policies?
“Yeah. Unfortunately. I do know of programs that say we will not tolerate this in our program.”
How does homophobia affect, not just the queer kids. How does it affect the team, individuals?
“Sports is a unique situation. For us, we have 15 ladies on the team that are all going for one goal. They all want to win. You have to check your politics at the door. I don’t care if you’re gay. I don’t care if you’re Black. I don’t care if you’re this or that. We have a common goal and we have to get after it. We’ve all got to come together.”
What kind of reactions have you gotten from administration, players, parents?
“Administration: Athletic Directors are risk management people who want to see the program succeed. I’ve had nothing but support.
“Players: Like I said it’s such a non-issue. They don’t look at me as the lesbian coach, they look at me as Coach Murrell is THE coach. They’ve been awesome. They babysit my children.
“Parents: Unbelievable. They showered us [Murrell and her partner] with baby gifts. Parents have come into my home. We have dinners. It hasn’t been an issue with recruiting.
“I think the bottom line is being are true to yourself. Honesty is lost virtue. I have not had one negative response. Now, are coaches in the stands buzzing around and saying things about me? I don’t know. But the coaches in my conference have been very supportive.”
Murrell’s remarks capture many of the reasons why there has been so little breakthrough with gay coaches: fear of the unknown, fears of negative recruiting, fear of loss job and career. But, she also mentions that too often we do not give those around us enough credit. Almost every coming-out story I hear is filled with surprise at the positive response. And although the sports world is still considered to be the most homophobic, I wish more would challenge and give athletes and fans a chance.