Six LGBT athletes at Yale have come together to create a support group specifically for gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans and questioning athletes. The athletes, spanning across several sports, met each other casually through mutual connections and quickly realized the need for a support
While all six of the founding athletes are men, they have told the Yale Daily News that a top priority is to bring more LGBT women into the group as locker-room issues and other hurdles exist across genders.
There used to be an organization at Yale for "Athletes and Allies," yet the group apparently didn't speak to the needs of the LGBT athletes and focused too much on the "allies," something we've seen on other occasions with "ally" groups. From the Yale Daily News:
But according to Ryan-Schreiber, the group was always tilted toward the Allies side, with "one [LGBTQ] athlete to 50 allies." Athletes and Allies slowly became defunct, and as of last year it no longer exists on campus, Ryan-Schreiber said.
In addition to two athletes who are not fully out to their families (but they are out to their teammates), four of the group's founding members are:
- Timothy Cox, running, '17
- Jake Leffew, golf, '19
- Luc Ryan-Schreiber, rugby, '17
- Wayne Zhang, diving, '18
Ryan-Shchreiber has experienced support from his teammates, but he said the head rugby coach during his freshman season used homophobic language and slurs on a regular basis. That coach is now not with the team.
"Flash forward to my junior year and I have a great new rugby coach the team is awesome," Ryan-Schreiber told Outsports. "When I got connected with Jake, who was struggling with the identy of a gay athlete, we talked it out and afterwards I realized there was no resource around currently.
"So I met with the athletic department to discuss this. After my first meeting with [senior associate athletic director] Brian Tompkins, he asked if I knew any other gay athletes. So I went to find them and we started the group with the hope of improving the reality for LGBT athletes here at Yale."
These athletes have hit on exactly the kind of organization that helps LGBT athletes. The courage to come out and be your true self doesn't come from straight people telling you you're OK, it comes from having a support structure of other LGBT people in sports and seeing the support they receive from their teammates, coaches and fans.
Also interesting is Leffew's experience with the LGBT co-op space on campus.
"I felt uncomfortable walking into an actual physical building with rainbow lettering," Leffew told Outsports. "I think its the formality of it that can be intimidating to someone who's just looking for an informal resource to talk to."
This is something we've heard from many LGBT athletes, that the LGBT space on campus just doesn't feel like home to them, or they fret over walking into an LGBT-specific space: Bringing that space into the athletic department is key.
Congratulations to these six brave guys, and we look forward to seeing the impact it has on so many other struggling athletes at Yale and beyond.