Anna Aagenes, writing for The Huffington Post, reminds us all that while we are quick to give coverage and praise to sports figures such as Jason Collins, Orlando Cruz, and Darren Young, we should not forget that professional out Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (LBT) women athletes deserve the same kind of praise and applause:
With all the recent media frenzy over pro male athletes coming out or not coming out, we lose our focus on the incredible female athletes who have come out. Here are a few recent headlines regarding coming out in sports from this month: “Leagues prepare for day when gay athlete comes out”; “Professional athletes coming out would be biggest step yet for gay rights”; “Major Sports Leagues Prepare for the ‘I’m Gay’ Disclosure.” The list goes on.
I hate to break it to them, but there are already out pro athletes. They are women.
Women are (and have been) dominating the coming-out “game,” if we can call it that…many female athletes have done so in a way that is both courageous and humble. Within the WNBA alone, there are out professional athletes who should also be making headlines. For instance, on the Minnesota Lynx, Amber Harris, Jessica Adair and Seimone Augustus (a 2012 Olympian) are all out as gay. Former players such as Chamique Holdsclaw, a 2000 Olympic gold medalist, and Sheryl Swoops, a three-time Olympic gold medalist and three-time MVP for the WNBA, have helped pave the way for our younger generations to come out as gay or bisexual.
Even outside professional basketball, female sports icons like Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Laura Lappin, Fallon Fox and Megan Rapinoe have bravely come out despite fear of negative feedback from fans or sponsors. We also see that younger generations like Brittney’s are becoming even more confident and even more outspoken about being exactly who they are. During the 2012 Summer Olympics, there were 21 out athletes, yet we can expect that number to be much higher in 2016 as more and more young athletes are coming out on their sports teams.
Homophobia, transphobia and sexism exist in both women’s and men’s sports, but they display themselves in different ways. For instance, the stereotype that many female athletes are lesbians may make someone who wants to come out feel like she can’t, for fearing of playing into that stereotype. Even a straight ally may fear she will perceived as gay if she plays a certain sport, or even if she wears her hair a certain way. Female athletes, even though they aren’t in the spotlight as much as men, still suffer from unspoken, less obvious forms of homophobia and pressure to conform within their teams.