Two years ago, Jacob Gardner of Madison, Conn., was walking on the track before a high school track meet when he was hit in the head by a rock thrown by a teammate who said he did it because Jacob is gay. A great story in the Shorline (Conn.) Times relates that this has a happy ending, making Jacob an advocate for other gay teens and athletes.
“It was an awakening,” says Gardner, 17, now a junior. “I had been bullied and teased in middle school, but once I got to the high school, everything had settled down. I even dared to join an athletic team.
“When I joined the cross-country team, I realized I couldn’t have chosen a better team to participate with. I was treated like one of the guys. People weren’t saying nasty things to me in the hallways anymore. I was in a passive state of feeling that things were getting better. And then that happened.”
The boy who threw the rock was booed by the rest of the team the next day and kicked off the team and the school gave Jacob and his parents their support.
“Life can be difficult for gay athletes,” he says. “In sports, especially for boys, athletes are portrayed as hyper-masculine. The stereotype for gays is effeminate and wimpy.
“For some athletes, coming out to their team is very hard. There are some people who still are not OK with it, and sometimes in sports, the person who is not OK with it might be the person who is running into you.”
The story, which is a nice story about a person who decided to fight back by speaking up, details how Jacob reached out to Athlete Ally (Hudson Taylor's straight ally group) and Pat Griffin of the GLSEN sports project. He was in the "Changing the Game" documentary made last year.
“I learned that there are people who want to help, who recognize that this is an issue,” says Gardner. “And it happens everywhere.
“We live in a culture that allows for both very accepting and very bigoted people to live in close quarters. It’s similar to the Civil Rights movement.”
Bravo to Jacob for channeling the anger and hurt from being assaulted into something positive and for striving to make a difference.
Hat tip to Jay Original for the story tip.