June 17, 2010

Glad for GLAD

I have a serious academic interest in sport and in this column I’ll be highlighting current events, sharing resources, reflecting on complex issues and sharing athlete’s stories among other things. For more about me, you can read my first post, here. Please feel free to email me with thoughts or if you come across something you’d like me to include on the blog.

When I started blogging I mentioned that I would be covering interesting stories and sharing resources. I haven’t done very much of the former yet, but I’d like to take this post to promote a survey sponsored by the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD).

An organization that fights legal battles against discriminations based on orientation, HIV status and gender identity and expression, last year GLAD launched an effort against homophobia and transphobia in sport. On October 2, 2009, GLAD issued the following statement about their recent undertaking: “To determine how we can best address homophobia and transphobia in sports, GLAD is researching the ways in which anti-gay and anti-transgender attitudes affect LGBT athletes and coaches.”

To do this, they’re collecting the stories and experiences of anybody currently or formerly associated with any sport at any level—rec, high school, college, pro, athlete, coach, family member or friend of an athlete. The hope is that these stories will illuminate the obstacles keeping LGBTQ-identified individuals from participating, having success or gaining positive experiences in sport. Of course, they’re also optimistic about the current climate on teams and ask for stories of positive experiences as well.

Though there are already several [read: too many] well documented cases of homophobia in sport violating the rights of individuals (such cases will be highlighted in future blogs), I believe that this is the right first step for GLAD to take. For every case which is fought in the courtroom (or settled out of it), far too many instances of homophobia and transphobia in sport are never brought to light. When the environment is toxic, most people (especially children and teens) will just stop playing the sport, rather than take action. And, seriously, who can blame them?

This survey will help to identify common themes among our experiences. How do homophobia and transphobia manifest themselves? What’s it look like in the locker room? During practice? During formal competition? During travel? Is it coming from the coach? The parents? The players/teammates? How are LGBTQ-identified coaches or administrators in sport affected differently than the athletes themselves? Is it in negative recruiting practices? Is it jokes or gossip from their athletes or colleagues? How does the environment change at each level (rec vs. high school vs. college, varsity vs. club vs intramural)?

I’ve been involved with sports for a long time and in a lot of different ways. As such, I’ve played for LGBTQ-identified and straight coaches and I’ve had LGBTQ-identified and straight teammates. I’ve witnessed really positive scenarios and not so positive incidents. In writing his personal story of being a gay athlete, Jamal Brown “look[s] forward to a day when the challenges LGBT athletes face come from competition, and not from teammates.” And so do I.

I would encourage every reader of this blog to take the time to fill out the survey and share your stories. Furthermore, I invite you to share your story (anonymously or not) in the comments section below. Share with GLAD and with us what your experiences have been, so we can all be aware and so that together we can team up to make athletic spaces safe, inclusive and embracing of everyone.

[Author’s note: Thanks for allowing me to vary the content of my columns. I often find myself having thoughts that I want to write about for the blog. Though several of my most recent posts have not been sports centered, LGBT Issues in Sport continue to be in the front of my mind as I go through every day. I’m excited to devote my next few entries solely to these topics.]

1 comment:

  1. Hey Risa! I'm really glad you wrote about this because I didn't know anything about GLAD's advocacy for sports equality until now!

    I think this is a really great idea. I know that I can safely say that being on swim team in high school in a supportive team atmosphere gave me so much of the self-confidence that I have today. It's awesome to see that GLAD's working to maintain that positive experience for everybody. =)