(This story was published in 2003).

On March 28-30, 2003, the newly formed National Gay & Lesbian Athletics Foundation (NGLAF) will present the first ever national conference on homophobia in sports. The National Gay & Lesbian Athletics Conference will converge on the campuses of MIT and Harvard for three days to discuss ways to champion the acceptance and visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) athletes; foster the development of inclusive and supportive athletics environments; dispel myths about LGBT athletes; and provide LGBT athletes with a forum to build networks and foster mentoring relationships.

“To most people, sports and gay people don’t mix,” said Mac Chinsomboon, the executive director of NGLAF. “It is vital that we dispel that myth and come up with ways to foster understanding between people who share a passion for the game that transcends sexual orientation. The conference will provide professional athletes, educators and spectators alike the opportunity to explore how we can achieve this effectively.”

Conference organizers have planned a full weekend of keynote addresses, multiple panel discussions, interactive workshops, entertainment and sports exhibitions.

Outsports.com is partnering with the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) to provide a panel to discuss “The Portrayal of Gay Athletes in the Media.” Panelists scheduled to appear include: ESPN: The Magazine editor at-large Luke Cyphers; Craig Lazarus, Senior Coordinating Producer for ESPN; Mitchell Wherley, the partner of former NFL lineman Esera Tualo; and Alissa Wykes, a fullback with the Philadelphia Liberty Belles professional women’s football team. Jim Buzinski, co-founder of Outsports.com, will moderate the group’s discussion.

“Amateur and professional athletics programs remain, for the most part, the last bastion of homophobia today,” said Cyd Zeigler, co-founder of Outsports. “Outsports started as a gathering place for the community to talk sports, particularly when a story broke in the media. Now we have the media themselves contacting us. They see Outsports as a resource for their stories because the gay athletes come here too. There just aren’t many places where they can be themselves: gay and athletes at the same time.”

Cathy Renna, News Media Director for GLAAD, sees the panel discussion they’re presenting with Outsports.com as an opportunity to educate sports writers who have rarely covered gay and lesbian issues.

“Their unfamiliarity with gay issues can result in superficial coverage that lacks analysis or context beyond the immediate controversy,” Renna says. “Too often, they don’t delve into larger issues like the homophobic climate of the locker room or the differences in the ways homophobia plays out in men’s sports versus women’s sports. GLAAD increasingly finds itself serving as a resource to media covering issues of homophobia in sports, so we hope that this panel prompts more discussion about a topic that continues to grow in scope.”

Other panel discussions scheduled for the conference include:

“Legal Protection & Action for LGBT Persons in Sport” presented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR);

“LGBT Athletes in Collegiate Sports” presented by the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) and Sexual Minorities in Athletics (SMIA);

“HIV and Athletics” presented by the AIDS Action Committee;

“LGBT Athletes in High School Sports” presented by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN).

To register for the conference and obtain and more information about the events scheduled, please visit http://www.gayconference.org.