Monday, December 13, 2010

Being gay in women's athletics: Be not afraid

I went to Catholic high school for four years even though I wasn't Catholic. Occasionally my mother would be asked, "Aren't you worried she might become Catholic?" Not that there was something wrong with being Catholic, mind you. I just wasn't. My mother would laugh it off. You are who you are, she told folks. If someone is going to influence you to that degree, you weren't very strong in your convictions in the first place.

Now we get to the touchy issue of sexuality and women's sports. It's a topic most media are afraid to touch and  "don't ask, don't tell" is a staple in women's athletics. But every once in a while it rears its head and reminds up how far we haven't come. Belmont just fired its women soccer coach, and though saying it was a "mutual decision," the word is that Lisa Howe was terminated for having a baby with her same-sex partner. Can't have that at a school that proposes to uphold "moral and ethical standards" as one of the members of the Board of Trustees pointed out.

When Robin Pingeton was hired at Missouri last spring, she said these words: "I'm a Christian that happens to be a coach. My values are very important to me. I'm very blessed to have my staff here. This is something very unique, I think, for Division I women's basketball to have a staff that the entire staff is married with kids. Family is important to us and we live it every day."

Her message was construed as an attempt to say, "No lesbians here."

We're so afraid as a society of what we're unfamiliar with. Slogans that stress "be yourself" are empty words, when what is so often meant is "Be like everybody else." But guess what? Everyone else isn't straight and Christian and moral. Athletics is a mixed bag just like society. Let's not pretend.
I often wonder why women's athletics is so willing to neglect perhaps its most avid fan base. Look around in the stands of a premier women's athletic event. Lesbians are everywhere at the Final Four, though the sport dare not market to them. Why are we so skittish of folks who are different than we are? Wasn't there a time when African-Americans were viewed as "different than we are" and therefore lesser? What about Jews?

I'm disappointed that in 2010, sexuality is such a big deal in women's athletics, that a coach in this day and age would be let go because of her decision to have a child with her partner. Is the idea to pretend that being gay is immoral and it doesn't exist on a college campus? Wake up, folks. It's on campus. It's off campus. It's in your stands. And you better believe it's among your athletes and coaches.

So what are we afraid of? That the other women on the team might turn gay? That gay folks might perform sex acts in public? Is there evidence of that happening anywhere at anytime?

Seems to me the evidence points to continued discrimination for something that is none of anyone's business.

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