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Generation gap: Silence hurting LGBT women in sports

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Pat Griffin and Nevin Caple have a fantastic column outlining the how and why of LGBT silence in sports and its repercussions.

Layshia Clarendon now plays for the Indiana Fever.
Layshia Clarendon now plays for the Indiana Fever.

LGBT sports advocates Nevin Caple and Pat Griffin penned a fantastic column for the Huffington Post about the state of homophobia in women's sports. Their conclusions: Women's sports does, despite stereotype and assumption, have a problem with homophobia - but like the rest of our culture, it's getting better.

I found this passage particularly fascinating. I think it reflects a dynamic in the larger culture as well: Many older LGBT people remember having to hide their sexual orientation for so long that they just don't want to talk about it:

In college sports, the current generation of senior women coaches and administrators of all sexual orientations perpetuate a culture of the closet in which silence and secrecy are the predominate strategies for addressing LGBTQ issues. Historically, women in sports, regardless of their sexual orientations, have struggled to ward off associations with and assumptions about being lesbians. This association posed a threat to women's sports and was an effective means to intimidate and silence women and to force them into an apologetic stance about their athleticism, their femininity and their sexuality. In contrast, a gay man in sport, especially the macho team sports, is still perceived as an anomaly. He does not threaten the reputation of all male athletes by coming out.

The historic association of women's sports with lesbians silences women in sport out of fear of limiting their own professional goals as well as damaging the public appeal of women's sports in general. This climate of secrecy and silence accounts for the fact that the number of publicly out lesbian college coaches and publicly visible straight women allies in college sports barely reaches double digits. This is a shocking number to those who believe that anti-LGBT prejudice and discrimination in women's sports is a thing of the past.

I've encountered this dynamic in other fields: LGBT people actually working against progress in their own field. I saw it when I worked in Hollywood, gay people refusing to use their positions to be part of the solution. It's fascinating that this is going on in sports, and Griffin and Caple point to it as a particular problem in women's sports.

Be sure to read the entire lengthy column by Griffin and Caple. It's worth the read!