June – Pride Month – is when a greater spotlight is put on our ever-growing LGBTQIA community, the strides that it has made in making our world a better place and the challenges they still face.
As our LGBTQIA community knows, Pride is something to be celebrated 365 ¼ days of the year – not only during one month out of the year. As marginalized as this community is for simply being itself, it is on all of us to ensure all of our spaces are more welcoming to those that identify as LGBTQIA.
LGBTQIA individuals and couples make our sports communities more diverse, more vibrant and simply better overall. Look at Sue Bird and Megan Rapinoe. Look at Layshia Clarendon. Look at Elena Delle Donne. Look at Amanda Zahui B. who recently wrote a piece on WNBA.com about what Pride means to her.
It is 2021. More than likely, every single one of us has someone in our inner circles who identifies as LGBTQIA or simply has met someone from the LGBTQIA realm. And while plenty of work still has to be done, there is a better understanding now that regardless of a person’s sexual orientation that they are part of one human race as we all are.
One cannot completely think about how sports and the LGBTQIA community have intersected over the past year or so without thinking about a disturbing trend that has taken part in state after state. Anti-transgender bills have been enacted in several states – including Florida, Tennessee and West Virginia banning transgender individuals from participating in women’s sports.
A spade has to be called a spade – there is no justification for attempting to bar access from an entire group of people from our sporting venues unless one simply has a deep-seeded hatred for those individuals. But the most jarring reasoning behind many of these measures is that they are meant to “protect women’s sports.”
Really? A bunch of white male lawmakers who have probably never been to a women’s sporting event in their lives are now using the platform of being anti-transgender to fly the banner of being champions of women’s sports.
If these lawmakers want to claim that these measures are not anti-transgender and are pro-women as they claim, ask them if they have been to a single WNBA game. Ask them if they could name 10 WNBA players. Even better – ask them if they could name 10 Black WNBA players. This one especially applies to lawmakers in the Volunteer State who probably believe Peyton Manning meant more to the University of Tennessee than the late, great Pat Summitt.
The more diverse and vibrant our courts, our diamonds, our fields, our ices and our pitches are – the better. Pride is something that should not only be recognized every June, but every day of every month of every year. And while there are states and lawmakers who would love nothing more than to drive our LGBTQIA community back into the shadows of society, there are also states and lawmakers who understand that recognition, acknowledgement, acceptance and love of LGBTQIA individuals, couples and families are central to a better society.
Making sports a more welcoming space for LGBTQIA individuals goes beyond fighting against laws that seek to disenfranchise the community for our sports venues. It means making sports more welcoming for the community on the field, in our boardrooms and in our newsrooms. Sports – particularly male sports – are seen as an exercise that is deeply steeped in machismo and toxic masculinity.
Any deviation from that is seen as “feminine” and “gay” in lots of male locker rooms. This “locker room talk” needs to cease as it is a reflection of a hurtful sports culture unwilling to confront its own deep-seeded insecurities and what is it about the “straight” male mind that has these Neanderthalic beliefs.
It means hiring more LGBTQIA individuals to be in major positions within our sports teams. Just as we lament that our major sports need to have more commissioners that are Black, Brown, Asian, Muslim and Native American – more of them should also be from the LGBTQIA community. We need more LGBTQIA coaches, more LGBTQIA general managers, more LGBTQIA team presidents, more LGBTQIA team owners and more LGBTQIA directors of marketing that know how to reach these folks and get them to arenas.
We also need more LGBTQIA sports journalists in our physical and virtual/online newsrooms and more sports editors (and editors-in-chief) that allow those journalists to cover their sports and teams from the viewpoint of someone within that community. More sports personalities on television, radio and online who are LGBTQIA will go a long way as well.
As rocky as it can be for anyone who identifies with the community to navigate the sports landscape, it can lead to plenty of doubt as to if sports will accept its LGBTQIA truths. But know this – if you are part of said community, understand that you have made strides, you have made sports more inclusive and you make our communities and our world a better place to live.
To the LGBTQIA sports community – you are loved and you are supported.
To the LGBTQIA community – you are loved and you are supported. #Pride365 #LoveIsLove