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Moment #34: Canadian volleyball coach Betty Baxter fired amidst rumors she is a lesbian

Part of Outsports’ series on our 100 most important moments in gay sports history.

Volleyball, 1982. Betty Baxter was a successful Canadian volleyball player and coach. After being named the head coach of the women's national volleyball team in 1979, she won the Canadian Interuniversity Athletics Union's coach of the year award. Yet in 1982, amid widespread rumors that she was a lesbian, she was fired as the national-team coach.

Despite the unjust firing, Baxter continued to contribute to her country and community. She co-founded the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women in Sport and the National Coaching School for Women. She was a board member and spokesperson for the 1990 Gay Games in Vancouver (in which she won gold). And she was the first openly lesbian candidate for a Canadian national office, running against Prime Minister Kim Campbell in 1993 and finishing fourth with 15% of the vote.

Still, 30 years later, she's maybe best-known for being the woman who got hit by homophobia on the chin. That few out lesbians have followed her footsteps shocks her, something that Dave Kopay has told us before. Baxter shared her sentiments with The Pink Elephant:

Six or seven years ago CBC asked to interview me because then there were no out lesbians in sport who would talk to them. And I said I’m 50 and hadn’t been active in sport in a strong way for 8 or ten years definitely not in straight sport for a long time and was there no one else who would talk to them? It shocked me that there was no high profile lesbian in sport who would talk to them. So I said I’ll talk to you but I don’t want to come in to the city so bring your cameras out here and they did that. But it astonishes me, an activist from 30 years ago, that people are still interested. Why haven’t I been booted out as a retired activist? I live a quiet life in the country and am active in small ways in what’s not particularly a gay and lesbian community. So I’m curious that I still have some infamy.

In recent years Baxter has turned her attention to harassment prevention in school districts. For someone who once lost her job simply for being who she is, it's incredible that she has now dedicated her life to making sure that kind of harassment doesn't happen to anyone else.

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