Yes, it’s true. I’m coming out, but not as gay. Been there, done that, even got the t-shirt from San Francisco.
I’m coming out in support of all the women athletes who have had the courage to publicly come out during their playing careers. We’re all aware of how hard it is to make a living playing sports as a female, and these women put everything on the line to be true to who they are. They risked the loss of what they had dreamed of and worked for all their lives. They became targets of ridicule and adoration in equal measure. I’m sure they are all aware of the ridicule, but to this day I’m not sure they’re aware of all the girls and women they gave hope to, and all who adored them for it.
I was one of those girls. I was in high school in the early to mid 70’s and women’s lib and feminism was everywhere. And while I latched on to the parts of those movements that spoke to me, something was missing. None of these people were like me, a sports loving, gay girl. I looked at all of the spokespersons for these rallying points and none of them were me. It would be a while until someone actually said the words, but I projected my gayness onto every strong, assertive woman in sport I could follow, but something was missing. I didn’t see myself in these strong accomplished female athletes because they had no girlfriends, or relationships. You never saw their houses or where they hung out. They never went to functions with a woman. They never spoke of anything but their sport in the media. No one ever asked them what their girlfriend thought of the constant travel, the swarms of fans or who took care of their pets when they were on the road.
And then someone came out, publicly, unashamedly, proudly. And that day my life and the life of thousands of girls and women changed. That day the athlete’s life changed, forever. No one really knows how much that public statement cost them, in lost earnings and opportunities, but I guarantee you that they gained something more valuable that day.
And I gained something as well. I gained a voice, a voice that looked like me and acted like me and was me.
So to all those who have come before and found the courage to come out, thank you.
Personally, I think it’s appalling that a male athlete is seen as more important when they come out. Our society still has so far to go when it comes to the issues surrounding gender. The media may not recognize all the women that got there first, but I do, and I appreciate each and every one of you.