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Lesbians in Sports: One Player's Story

A Lesbian Athlete Tells her Story

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What is it like to be an out lesbian on a college basketball team? I had the opportunity to speak with Kristy, a former basketball player from a college in the Pacific Northwest. Here's what she had to say:

When did you first realize you were a lesbian?

I first realized I was a lesbian while I was in high school. I tried to deny it by having boyfriends (who I was not the least bit attracted to), joining conservative churches (careful what you pray for) and being blatantly homophobic – though my parents had nothing to do with it, they are as liberal as they come. I came to terms with my sexuality as I entered college and began my collegiate athletic career.

When you chose a college, did you consider how that school treated lesbian athletes?

I didn’t choose my college based on how many lesbian coaches there actually were. At the time there was only my assistant coach and the athletic director, but now, in 2004, there is a lesbian coach in almost every sport except for the male dominated (football, track, golf). There is a lesbian or bisexual coach in basketball, volleyball and the last female soccer coach was a lesbian also. I think if I were to be a freshman now – I would be relieved.

Where did you go to college? What division is it?

I went to a small college – 16,000 students in the Pacific Northwest. At first it was NAIA Div. I, but now it is NCAA div II.

Were you on Scholarship?

Yes, I was on scholarship – but as a small college, I wasn’t on a full ride until my final year.

Were there other lesbians on your team?

There is always at least one lesbian on the team at a time. When I played my freshman through junior year, I was the only known lesbian. The other three came out much later as either lesbian or bisexual. When I came back to the program in 2001, I was the only known one again, with one in the closet… now there are two.

How did your teammates feel about having an out lesbian on the team?

My teammates were very kind, though I was at first scared to death. Eventually, due to my personality I either told everyone or they simply found out. No one my freshman-junior year gave me a hard time. I wanted to be an out and proud, flying out of the closet lesbian, and they let me. Now, when I came back to the program in 2001, 4 years later, there were some small town girls who had a hard time. Most everyone was from a small town. One girl had a very conservative pastor father who decided that because she was a freshman and I was a “super” Senior and close friends with the coaching staff, it was better for her career to simply ‘disagree’ with me rather than try to make a fit. Eventually, by the end of the year, I educated most of them about their biases – but the small town issue always remains. They are nice to your face, but would never invite you over.

How out were you? Did you tell everyone? Were you active in GLBT campus groups or a visible face on campus?

Gosh, how out was I? As out as you can be. I pretty much wore a neon sign and let it be known that I wouldn’t take harassment from anyone – not even fans from opposing teams. I was definitely the BDOC (big dyke on campus). I was a very visible face on campus my last two years. I worked in the LGBT campus support group as a ‘wise old member’ because I was 25/26 and had pretty much been there, done that. All the athletes knew I was gay, and it didn’t matter which athletic discipline you were in. I guess that might have caused some problems here and there (football players didn’t necessarily get along with me well). That isn’t to say I was a super Nazi-Feminist type, it’s just that I could bench 160, and squat 300 lbs and I would have shown how tough my nuts were if anyone were to ask.

Also read Lori's story, which is quite different from Kristy's.

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