Even though the world has made significant progress in the past few years, it’s still hard out there for gay men and lesbians, especially in the world of sports. The You Can Play Project is an organization dedicated to rectifying this by promoting equality, safety and respect for all athletes, regardless of sexual orientation.
Several professional athletes and college teams have signed onto the project, and, as of June, the first American women’s professional sports team has signed on, as well. Earlier this week, the Seattle Reign FC (a soccer team, to the uninitiated) released a video announcing their partnership with You Can Play:
You may wonder what’s so significant about a woman’s team signing onto the goals of You Can Play (other than the fact that it’s the right thing to do and every team should make the sporting atmosphere accepting of all sexual orientations). I mean, homophobia is only a problem in the macho world of men’s sports, right?
According to Think Progress, perceived homosexuality in women’s sports can be just as damaging as it is in men’s sports:
Women still face homophobia though, particularly in collegiate sports, because the perception that female athletes are unfeminine and perhaps more likely to be lesbians can often drive backlash against those who actually are. Homophobia has contributed to the downfall of lesbian coaches in women’s sports, while lesbian players, like Brittney Griner, who came out shortly before becoming the top pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft, are often pressured to stay in the closet or downplay their sexuality. “Be straight, or at the very least, act straight,” ESPN’s Luke Cyphers and Kate Fagan wrote of the attitude that is often pervasive in women’s sports.
This type of support for gay and lesbian athletes is especially important as we gear up for the Olympic Games next year in Russia. As I’m sure you well know, the Russian LGBT community has of late been subjected to appalling homophobic violence, and some are calling for a boycott of the games. Sure, the International Olympic Committee says it has reassurances that gay athletes will be safe, but one Russian lawmaker is A-OK with arresting gay athletes and spectators who dare set foot on pristine, hetero, Russian soil.
It’s all very disheartening.
But things are progressing, although not as quickly as we’d like. Major League Baseball is enhancing it’s anti-discrimination policy. The NFL and NBA have each added sexual orientation to their non-discrimination policies. And with organizations like You Can Play fighting the good fight, I’m hopeful that things will only get better.
Photo Credit: YouTube / YouCanPlayProject