February 3, 2010

LGBT Issues in Sport: An Introduction

Welcome to my column! For lack of a better, more creative title I’m simply going to be calling this feature “LGBT Issues in Sport.” I don’t proclaim to be an expert in these issues, but I like to think I’m a little more knowledgeable and aware of them than “Joe the Plumber.”

So if I’m not an expert on this stuff, then who am I and why am I writing about it? To answer these questions I’m going to dedicate this first post to an introduction. I’ll be writing every other Wednesday. Some may be more news-like, other posts may provide resources, and still others may be something completely different. I glean a lot of blogs and sites, but I will certainly miss some things. So if there is something you’d like me to address, please email me at rfi@duke.edu. Just indicate in the subject line that it’s related to this blog and I’ll do my best to include it here.

But first, let me introduce myself. I’m Risa and I love sports. Obviously, that’s not the only thing that defines me, but it really is a large part of who I am (just ask my friends). Over the years my passion for sports grew from being a participant to being a fan and an athlete to being a fan, an athlete and an academic. Let me explain.

The short version of it is that I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t playing sports. I’ve played on local YMCA teams, with my older brother and dad in the street, for a rec league, for my high school and now for Duke. I’ve been involved with a lot of different sports in varying capacities: soccer, track and field, cross country, basketball, ultimate frisbee, dance, gymnastics, and rowing (not to mention countless hours of catch and/or pickle). In first and second grade I remember playing basketball and soccer with the boys at recess. Throughout all of elementary school I lived for every third day when we got to have PE and always looked forward to field day. In middle school and high school I was that annoying girl who was super competitive in PE. Somewhere along the line I also started following some professional leagues. As time continued, my preferred pro league and team became the WNBA and my hometown Phoenix Mercury, respectively. As I became a more and more devoted fan I started becoming interested in the behind the scene components—like marketing and salary caps, etc. Around eighth grade I started thinking that I might like to go into sports business (lots of other eighth graders were deciding their future careers, too, right?). In the middle of high school I felt conflicted between wanting to pursue one of my other passions—social change—but also loving sports. At the time, I didn’t see how the two could work together (you know, how do you reconcile “changing the world” and the nonprofit sector with the multi-billion dollar sports entertainment industry?). Then I realized what a powerful platform sports were and began developing a personal philosophy that sport has the power to change the world. I figured I could use sport to create positive change by becoming a big powerful executive and then partnering with organizations and colleagues to develop varying initiatives. I started reading up on organizations that did this sort of work and ways in which sport has been a medium to push society forward. During this effort I stumbled across a network of academic blogs, journals and resources which I continue to follow and read in my free time. After spending a lot of time thinking about the issues the blogs raised and the work this academic community was doing, I realized how excited it all made me. Before all of this I never knew that “sport sociology” existed—but now it’s all I want to study.

In reading lots of these blogs and journals, I’ve found that I’m most interested in issues of diversity within sport (race, gender, religion, culture, etc). I am also really intrigued by the relationship between sport and culture—how sport is a reflection of society and/or how society is a reflection of sport. In this blog, I’ll be focusing on LGBT issues (if you want to talk about other things, though, hit me up!) like homophobia and gender expression and identity and athletes’ coming out stories, etc.

As it relates to Duke, I’m a regular at volleyball and women’s basketball games. I also get to a handful of men’s and women’s soccer games each season and the home track and field meets. I’ve, of course, been to football and men’s basketball games (including last year’s Carolina game) in addition to a few field hockey games and even a fencing match.

More than just a hobby, I spent a summer working for the Phoenix Mercury’s PR office, a sports marketing firm and last school year as a manager for the women’s basketball team. I’m currently a member of the crew team.

Lastly, the disclaimer: the views expressed in this blog are only mine (unless otherwise noted). They do not reflect Blue Devil’s United or Duke University or any other entity with which I am or have been affiliated.

1 comment:

  1. The issue of LGBT and sports is a fascinating one. I was a talented athlete as a child, but when I reached puberty, I felt deeply that I had to give up athletic pursuits in order to be liked by the boys. This felt like a betrayal of my nature, but I did it anyway. It doesn't seem to me that much progress has been made in raising societal consciousness about what it means to be a strong woman. I look forward to reading your posts.