Forget that she helped her Indiana Fever team to the WNBA Finals, losing on the road in Game 5. Ignore for a moment her history as a player on the court, in high school earning California player of the year honors and leading the Cal Bears to the Final Four. Layshia Clarendon has
What sets her apart from so many other professional athletes for us this year has been her willingness, her overt desire, to use her platform to shift the conversation about lesbians and trans athletes in women's sports. While Clarendon may not have posted the numbers this season that make heads turn, she has worked tirelessly to build bridges and open closet doors for women across sports.
Her piece in The Players' Tribune in August - at the height of the WNBA season - about religion and being LGBT was fantastic and helped continue a crucial conversation about the intersection of the worlds that are so often pitted against one another. She addresses intersections of identity in powerful yet graceful ways and helps people understand the power of each component and the combined experience she lives every day.
"I identify as black, gay, female, non-cisgender and Christian," Clarendon wrote. "I am an outsider even on the inside of every community to which I belong. My very existence challenges every racial, sexual, gender and religious barrier."
She has never hidden from her powerful role as a visible LGBT person in sports, even as the vast majority of lesbians and gay men have chosen to keep their sexual orientation away from the public. If you don't know about her challenges as an out LGBT person in basketball at Cal and the WNBA, be sure to check out the conversation she had at The Atlantic LGBT Summit earlier this month.
For her powerful voice and undying work to bring visibility to LGBT women in basketball, we salute Layshia Clarendon as our Female Hero of the Year.
We also wanted to acknowledge the work of Lauren Neidigh. The former Univ. of Arizona swimmer has been writing for Outsports for the last year and has been part of a growing support structure for LGBT swimmers looking to come out. She is also a key component of GO! Athletes, the world's largest network of LGBT high school and college athletes.