Photo gallery below.
It was an honor to speak at the Celebration of LGBT Athletes at Stanford University last week, in recognition of the school's placement on Campus Pride's Out To Play Project list. Stanford Senior Associate Athletic Director Earl Koberlein was on hand to accept the Campus Pride award.
The event was organized by some fantastic alumni, students and Stanford staff members. While the athletic department did send Koberlein as a representative, they did not actively participate in the organizing of the event.
My remarks focused on two aspects of Stanford's community. First was the change in culture on campus. When I was there from 1991-'95, several varsity athletes brutally defaced a "Gay Liberation" statue on campus. After I came out, fraternity brothers of mine (who were on the varsity wrestling team) refused to even shake my hand. Talking to several out gay students, they said those actions were unfathomable on campus now.
I also talked about the work Stanford had left to do in this area. Stanford isn't about being "one of" the best, it's about being the best. Athletes told me that while the campus is gay-friendly, it's virtually a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" situation with the athletic department. While there isn't outward homophobia, there isn't an outward embracing of LGBT athletes either. The athletic department has long shied away from having LGBT sensitivity training for athletes and coaches. This event last week, taking place at Chuck Taylor Grove in the heart of the athletic department, was a beacon of hope for many of the athletes and alumni present.
NCLR's Helen Carroll and Kate Kendall talked about next steps. Positive Coaching Alliance's Jim Thompson gave a memorable analogy between human behavior in sports...and wood ticks.
While all of the speakers gave really fantastic (and thankfully short) talks, one particular speaker seemed to grab the hearts of the audience. Derek Liecty was a member of the Stanford soccer team. He graduated in 1954. It seemed he was on the verge of tears as he talked about what this event meant to him, almost 60 years after his graduation. The longtime Gay Games supporter used the opportunity to welcome all of the athletes to the Gay Games in Cleveland in 2014.
One current out Stanford athlete also spoke at the event. We'll have his story later this month.
Special thanks to everyone who helped organize this event, including: Kathy Levinson, Holly Fetter, Tina Syer, Inge Margrethe Hansen, Joanne Sanders, Xanthe Travlos, Lindsay Shaffer, Laura Wadden, & Toni Kokenis.
Photos by Tina Syer and Joanne Sanders: