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Bi college lacrosse player thrives after finding her identity

Therese Pitman used to hide her feelings for other women while also dating men until she decided to just be herself.

Therese Pitman with lacrosse stick.
Therese Pitman is excited to be a part of Pitt’s lacrosse program
University of Pittsburgh Athletics

By the time I graduated from Siena College, I had finally come to terms with being bisexual. My public declaration, as it were, was adding “guys&gals” with a rainbow flag emoji to my Instagram profile.

Such a simple act would have seemed radical growing up in the small town of Sherrill, N. Y., (population 3,000) as I struggled with my attraction to girls as well as to guys.

In high school, I noticed how attractive many girls were, but I brushed it off internally. I only dated guys in high school because that is what seemed normal and also what felt right for me to do.

As a girl who has three older brothers, I naturally hit it off with guys. I remember sitting in the lunchroom in high school with my guy friends and listening to them talk about how pretty some girls were in my class and how being an athlete really added to this attraction.

There was no way I could disagree with them and so I would give my input on how some girls were absolutely beautiful. However, it was almost like what I said went unnoticed. None of the guys I was friends with ever questioned these comments and why would they? I always had romantic relationships with guys, and it is more often than not that girls give other girls compliments.

I was a three-sport athlete in high school and was constantly surrounded by pretty athletic girls. I would change in the locker room stalls instead of in front of everyone before games and practices because I was almost uncomfortable with the way that I thought about other girls. It was another technique to avoid my feelings and not let them cloud my mind too much.

It wasn’t until college at Binghamton University that I started to see people different from myself love each other. My feelings towards women grew stronger as I met women who were older and more comfortable with themselves. I began to let my feelings sit with me.

Therese Pitman had a standout lacrosse career at Siena College.
Therese Pitman had a standout lacrosse career at Siena College.

I distanced myself a bit socially from my team my first two years in college. There were people on my team whom I was attracted to, but I couldn’t share those thoughts. It was an awkward battle each day to avoid feeling butterflies around some of these people.

I often would end up going out with people who weren’t on my lacrosse team so that way no one could know if I kissed or danced with another girl. I constantly hid my attraction to women by only talking about dates I went on with guys.

My sophomore year I started to really explore women in romantic ways but I felt sharing at this point with my teammates would be too late. I already spent a year with them as the quiet heterosexual girl and didn’t want the attention or questions.

It was after my sophomore year that I decided to transfer to Siena College. I felt like I needed to get away and just start over so I didn’t have to hide parts of me or continue to not be true to myself.

The thing about being bisexual versus being strictly attracted to one sex or another is that there are different levels and complexities to it. I needed to figure out so badly what I was comfortable with, what I truly desired.

As I began to read more about sexuality and listen to those who were different than myself talk, I found that this confusion of thinking men and women both were attractive wasn’t uncommon. It became clear to me that I could be emotionally attracted to one sex and physically attracted to another or any combination in between. I wasn’t crazy or wrong, I just found that men emotionally challenge me and women are physically attractive to me.

The summer after my sophomore year, before heading off to my new college, I hoped in my car for a long drive. To nowhere in particular, just to think out loud — “new school, new identity, new school, new identity.”

If someone asked, I would let them know I liked men and women in different ways. When I got home from the ride, I quickly opened up my laptop and ordered a pair of Under Armor Pride edition sneakers. I was going to rock them my first day at Siena College.

Therese Pitman’s Pride shoes.
Therese Pitman’s Pride shoes.

I was proud that I had made this decision to just be real with myself, but I hadn’t told anyone yet. I hadn’t let the words “I am bisexual” come out of my mouth to anyone who knew me. It was a slow and steady work in progress.

I worked at an emergency room the summer before heading off to Siena College and I met a man who became a great friend. As the summer progressed, I knew I had to tell him I liked him, but I also needed him to know that I liked women too. If he didn’t accept that I was bisexual, then I wouldn’t allow room for him in my life. We got dinner one night after work and I remember just blurting out, “I really like you and I want you to know that I like women too…”

He was not the least bit thrown off. He simply said with a smile, “I like you too and I support you.” Little did he know in that moment I gained so much freedom and happiness. I had been struggling with these thoughts for so long and he had just taken a bit of that fear away from me. I could be my absolute self around this person, I didn’t have to hide. I could be openly bisexual and have a boyfriend.

I went to Siena College and rocked my Pride shoes every day and completely felt relieved to own myself and what I stood for. It didn’t need to be an official announcement and if someone asked, I told them, “I am bi and that’s that.”

I gave a presentation in one of my classes junior year about my identity and in the middle of it, took off my rainbow colored Pride sneaker, held it up and said, “part of my identity is that I am bisexual and I wear these shoes to let people know that I am not afraid and I support anyone who is a part of this LGBTQ+ community.” I looked around the room thinking there would be some huge reaction. There wasn’t and the only one who seemed to think it was a big deal was me. That was the reaction I wanted — nothing. It is a big deal, but it isn’t. It’s normal. It is me.

My transformation really allowed me to develop into the leader I wanted to be. A year after transferring to Siena College as a walk-on, my teammates voted me to be their team captain. The truth is, when we are our authentic selves we grow in immense ways and help others develop too.

Since I updated my Instagram bio I have had people ask me if they can use what I wrote. I also get asked how to deal with people who try to invalidate my sexuality because I have truly only ever dated men. It is simple, and I believe the best advice is given in the fewest words so I use Dr. Seuss’ saying: “People that mind don’t matter and people that matter don’t mind.”

With each step forward I became liberated and excited to live life the way that felt best for me. Now as a graduate student athlete at the University of Pittsburgh I have really begun to draw more attention to understanding there are several parts of my identity.

Being bisexual is one and being an athlete is another, but I am so much more than these two pieces. I am a leader and continue to grow as a leader by being part of an inaugural ACC lacrosse program and setting the standard here at Pittsburgh.

Unlike most Division I athletes, I picked up lacrosse later in life, in the 10th grade, by joining the inaugural varsity lacrosse program at Vernon Verona Sherrill High School. I loved how every practice I learned something new and quickly lacrosse became my world.

When I left Binghamton University, after seeing little playing time on the field, I decided to walk on to Siena College’s women’s lacrosse team. One person gave me a chance and developed me into a fierce player. Coach Abigail Rehfuss saw my potential and knew I was talented enough to be a competitive Division I one player.

After spending each day watching film, working on my stick skills and growing stronger and faster, I found myself in a starting position in my first game as a Saint. By the end of the season I was selected as an All-MAAC first team defender, named to the MAAC All-Tournament team and led the team in caused turnovers.

Therese Pitman goes high during lacrosse practice at Pitt.
Therese Pitman goes high during lacrosse practice at Pitt.
University of Pittsburgh Athletics

I am now at Pitt and I am very indebted to coach Emily Boissonneault. As a coach in the ACC, she could have picked anyone — high school All Americans or other graduate transfers from big name conferences — and yet here I was, really only having one solid year of playing and contributing in a collegiate lacrosse season and she gave me a chance. From a no-name, high school recruit to a walk on in the MAAC to an ACC player is something I still don’t believe is real.

As well as being engaged as an active advocate and ally, I am a public policy student at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs where I learn about human rights. I think it is extremely important for stories like mine and other people of the LGBTQ+ community to come out so the world can begin to understand who we are hurting and how we can listen to, feel empathy for, and adjust our behavior.

I am the student leader of the Ally Affinity Group at Pittsburgh which is a subcommittee of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion subcommittee of our Student Athlete Advisory Committee.

I work each day to be a better ally even if I am a member of the LGBTQ+ community because we are not the only community that constantly gets neglected and suppressed. International, BIPOC, Deaf, Faith/Religious groups and others need our support and need us all to be better.

I hope someday that coming out does not have to be a thing or does not have to be a big announcement or story. In the near future I wish for all sexualities to be considered natural in a world with less assumptions and less discrimination.

Therese Pitman, 22, is a member of the inaugural University of Pittsburgh’s women’s lacrosse team and will be graduating from University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, in 2022 with a master’s degree in Public Administration. She serves as a member of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and the student leader of the SAAC Ally Affinity Group. She will pursue a career in athletic administration upon graduation. She can be reached by email (tm16pitm@alum.siena.edu), on Twitter (PitmanTherese), or on Instagram (therese_pitman).

Story editor: Jim Buzinski

This story was produced in partnership with US Lacrosse magazine.

If you are an out LGBTQ person in sports and want to tell your story, email Jim (kandreeky@gmail.com)

Check out our archive of coming out stories.

If you’re an LGBTQ person in sports looking to connect with others in the community, head over to GO! Space to meet and interact with other LGBTQ athletes, or to Equality Coaching Alliance to find other coaches, administrators and other non-athletes in sports.

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