Being Out is a feature that looks at LGBTQ people in sports who have come out since Outsports first published in 1999. Today: College basketball player Haley Videckis, who also spoke with Randy Boose for the Outsports podcast, Level Playing Field.
Haley Videckis has a strong sense for social justice borne out of a feeling of injustice when she played college basketball.
Videckis and Layana White sued Pepperdine University in 2014, saying the school’s women’s basketball coach discriminated against them because they were dating at that time. A California jury ruled in 2017 that there wasn’t enough evidence to prove the women were targeted for their sexual orientation.
The case was notable because it was one of the first times sexual orientation was allowed for a legal claim under Title IX. Even though she and White lost their case, the fight convinced Videckis that it was one worth having.
Videckis, who identifies as pansexual, is writing a book on her experiences, is planning to enroll in law school and is forging a career as an activist and writer. Earlier this year, she was hired by Outsports as a contributor. She lives in Los Angeles.
Here are Videckis’ answers to our six Being Out questions.
What do you love the most about basketball?
I fell in love with basketball from an early age because I loved the competition and the camaraderie that is built among a team, even if it’s playing a game of pickup with people you just met.
As I got older, basketball captivated me in a world filled with so much culture that I never experienced growing up in the predominantly white suburbs in Illinois. I remember how much fun I had with my teammates warming up for games and blasting hip-hop music in our gym. Basketball is where I met all of my friends, and it’s where I met Layana.
What does it personally mean to you to be LGBTQ+ in sports?
My experience in sports taught me that you can be LGBTQ+ but not be seen, and often visibility is required to change cultures that are non-inclusive to your existence.
For me, being LGBTQ+ in sports was not possible in 2014 at Pepperdine, so both Layana and I used our platform as LGBTQ+ athletes to illuminate the injustices that were keeping players in the closet.
Fortunately, many players were able to be out after we left because the athletic department began encouraging them to. It was rewarding to see same-sex couples finally to be open on campus or for girls on the team to not hide their relationships anymore. That was a win-win for everyone.
However, for LGBTQ+ athletes who stay quiet in non-inclusive locker rooms due to the very real risk of losing their athletic careers, they may be contributing, albeit unknowingly, to the culture that disparately impacts them.
This happens when athletic departments point to LGBTQ+ athletes who are existing in these spaces but are not prepared to stand up and demand equal treatment. It can set back movements because people have difficulty decompartmentalizing that an LGBTQ+ athlete’s mere existence in a locker room does not endorse its diversity or inclusion of them.
What advice would you give to LGBTQ+ kids in athletics or who want to participate in athletics, the kind of advice the younger you wish you had heard?
The younger me never explored her sexuality or considered a life outside of dating men, so when I found myself falling in love with a girl I met, I cannot say that I was exactly prepared. During my entire basketball career up until that point, my sexuality as a straight woman never influenced my coach’s perception of my athletic performance, so why would this be any different?
From my experience, women’s basketball is a sport that stereotypes players to be lesbian, so if you have a coach who acts upon those stereotypes, you may experience a culture that puts your sexuality and behavior under a microscope.
Your transparency and confidence are your keys to success. If you can begin exploring and embracing your sexuality from an early age, it will be easier to have conversations with teammates and coaches to let them know you are in the locker room.
In my home state of Illinois, the House and Senate just passed a bill would that would require LGBTQ history to be taught in public schools. Just as it is a part of the curriculum for students to learn about the historical oppression against racial minorities and women, it is necessary for young students to learn about the oppression LGBTQ people have faced so that history does not repeat itself.
This will help young people to understand the barricades activists have already broken down and the sacrifices they made to break them; the evolution that the old challenges have undergone and the new ones that lay ahead and the different forms of oppression that affect LGBTQ+ athletes so that your advocacy is not narrowly focused on one particular experience.
Who is someone that inspires you?
Laverne Cox is someone who has always inspired me, beginning when Layana and I were athletes watching “Orange is the New Black” in our Pepperdine dorm room. I recently watched her keynote speech at the USC OWN IT Summit, and she has helped me to understand my own trauma.
She beautifully describes how we may experience the collective trauma that has passed down by generations before us; that it is OK to be vulnerable and explore our own emotions for the collective healing of society. Her visibility as a black transgender woman in the media and on the streets protesting is very powerful and not something you see all celebrities doing.
What are you passionate/excited about right now?
I am excited to announce I will be releasing a memoir detailing the transformation of my sexuality from childhood to college when I met Layana and our experience through the American legal system together.
By the ages of 21 and 22, we became the first plaintiffs to have a case accepted to Federal Court on a theory that Title IX barred sexual orientation discrimination. That ruling has set precedent and been cited in arguments before the Supreme Court and in Appellate and District court decisions, but it did not come easy.
Our “coming out” to society was through a TMZ article, the same day our case hit the docket in December 2014. This was before same-sex marriage was legalized and there became a general acceptance and support of pride parades like we see today.
It is a love story in so many ways.
A parent struggling to accept their LGBTQ son or daughter may find purpose in the words I wrote to my father following his unexpected death. An open-minded Christian may witness a born-and-raised Catholic’s reconciliation of her love with her faith to realize that LGBTQ people are complicated human beings whose sexuality alone might not dictate the decision to attend a Christian university, or understand how hard-line doctrines turn those seeking deeper connection to religion away from it. LGBTQ student-athletes may even consider this a how-to book in living their truth, channeling their competitive spirit into activism.
The fluidity of love, regardless of orientation, speaks to the universal truths that helped me heal trauma, fight for justice, learn to forgive and hold steadfastly to strained relationships.
What is your most memorable sports moment?
My most memorable sports moment in high school was going down state my senior year with the Bartlett High School basketball team in Illinois, which was a huge accomplishment for my hometown. We had an unforgettable pep rally in our gymnasium with the entire school who cheered us on as we loaded the buses to head down state. The camaraderie of our team that year was something athletes dream to have.
In college, my favorite moment was our rival game against Arizona when I was at Arizona State my freshman year in 2013. We were down 58-56 with 30 seconds on the clock, and Coach Charli Turner Thorne put me in the game and I hit a three-pointer. Our point guard drove down the middle lane and threw me a beautiful pass on the arc where I took the game-winning shot. The crowd went wild and I’ll never forget the feeling of a lifetime’s work paying off in a few short moments.
Haley Videckis is a former Division I basketball player, activist, writer and contributor to Outsports. She is a graduate of University of Southern California, was born and raised in Chicago and now lives in Los Angeles. She can be reached on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter or email: email@example.com
If you are out in sports in any capacity as openly LGBTQ and want to be featured in Being Out, drop Jim an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).