Odds are you woke up Wednesday morning with shock that Donald Trump was elected President of the United States and wondering what was coming next for LGBT people. If you are like most LGBT athletes we follow on social media, you probably felt some dismay, depression or downright fear.
There was no doubt whom the LGBT community favored -- Tuesday’s election went 78% to 14% in favor of Hillary Clinton over Trump. But we are not going to talk politics here. We try to avoid politics on Outsports.
Plus we don’t know what laws will be proposed that will directly affect LGBT rights and equality. While there was plenty of talk of policy revolving around gender, race, religion and other demographics, the Presidential campaign was largely devoid of LGBT issues and anything we write will be just a guess (though we could absolutely take a guess).
The acceleration of the LGBT sports movement mirrors the Obama presidency. In the last eight years, more athletes, coaches, administrators, executives and media members have come out than the rest of history combined.
Having an LGBT-friendly administration with a president who publicly acknowledged openly gay athletes – and ultimately championed same-sex marriage rights and other key LGBT issues – was a sign of this societal acceptance.
Now, in the Age of Trump, we’re in unknown territory.
Yet LGBT acceptance has largely never been about any law or government policy. The power to open people’s hearts and minds has always been in our hands. The single most powerful demonstration of activism any LGBT person can do is to come out – to family, friends, co-workers, teammates, themselves. We realize this is still not possible for many people, but it is possible for many more than the amount we see come out in our lives or publicly.
Even with the election of an administration that will not be as LGBT-inclusive as that of President Obama, coming out continues to be important – our most important tool to continue our work. It may be even more important than ever.
Wednesday morning we received an email from a young athlete whose story we will be sharing next week.
“Sitting here after the election in shock,” he wrote, “I came to conclusion I want to be more involved with our community. If there are anymore opportunities for me to fight for our rights and be some time of an influence please let me know.”
Every transition of power offers people who feel they lost the election the opportunity to cower or continue. We invite you to continue more out and more proudly than ever before.
Every survey on attitudes toward gay people show that knowing someone LGBT is the single best indicator of support and acceptance. We see it all the time on Outsports, in stories from red states, blue states and swing states, in cities, suburbs and rural areas:
- The gay married high school wrestling coach in rural Indiana, who feared coming out would end his coaching career but was proven wrong. I felt vindicated: my athletes and their parents were a lot more worried about losing a good, dedicated coach than anything else.
- The lesbian track athlete in Kentucky who proposed to her girlfriend and was treated with love and support. "Everybody knows I date women. My coaches don't judge. As long as you get done what you're supposed to get done — school work and sports — he couldn’t care less. My teammates don't care. They accept me."
- The gay U.S. sailor and water polo player whose fellow service members had his back after he was outed. “I feared I would be rejected by people I once was friends with, terrified that the leadership above me would look at me as less of a man, or that any accomplishment I have will be attributed to me being gay, and not my merit. I was completely and utterly wrong. In fact, some of the most vocally homophobic people ended up being my biggest supporters.”
- The gay college soccer player who contemplated suicide but found the strength to come out and accept himself. “At the end of the day, could my sexuality potentially bar me from getting a job that I want? Maybe. There will always be hateful people in the world, but there is far too much love in this world and love always, always wins.”
- The gay college athletics trainer in the Bible Belt South whose coach and friend not only accepted him, but was pissed he kept his secret for so long. “Far from my fears being founded I discovered my relationship strengthened by this sharing of my personal truth.
- The gay high school rodeo cowboy in South Dakota who feared most of all telling his dad. "This doesn't change who you are nor does it make you any less of a person. I am proud to call you my son,” his dad told him.
These are just a small example of people we have profiled who took a risk, defied their fears and realized that there can be a lot of love and acceptance if you just trust people.
Their coming out was an act of activism that empowered themselves and caused positive change. Beyond that, their stories have inspired others and contributed to a growing community of out LGBT people in sports. Coming out is more important and more vital than ever.
If you are an LGBT person in sports who would like to share their story publicly, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.