Sarah Crowley never thought she was into women. Growing up in suburban Long Island, the All-American lacrosse star only dated guys, and despite her enrollment in gender studies courses and liberal proclivities, was unwilling to think beyond heteronormativity.
Then senior year rolled around.
After spending her freshman year at the University of Virginia — and qualifying for the Final Four — Crowley transferred to UMass Amherst in 2014. She quickly fell in love with the granola-crunching enclave, enchanted with her studies and bucolic surroundings.
Eventually, Crowley started to explore her sexuality, and began covertly dating a teammate. The secret ended when she was inadvertently outed, and at first, thought the world was over.
Then Crowley jumped out of the sexual closet, and received the warmest of receptions.
“Everyone was just amazing about it,” Crowley told me on this week’s edition of The Sports Kiki. “It really was surprising to me that this entire time I was terrified to come out. I was creating all of this anxiety out of nowhere. No one was bullying me, no one told me they wouldn’t like me. It was all internalized. I was so lucky I had this support system.”
It’s surprising to hear that Crowley was apprehensive about exploring her sexual temptations. She instantly immersed himself in Amherst’s progressive culture, and currently hosts a podcast dedicated to challenging gender norms. But at the time, there was a disconnect between her intellect and self-confidence.
“People can be super into gender issues and social political things like that, but I never put two-and-two together,” Crowley said. “Once you actually are open to things, and not blocking yourself off at every single corner, you really become aware of what you’re capable of, and who you actually are.”
For years, Crowley was petrified of coming out in the locker room. But once she did, something funny happened: many of her teammates followed suit. In total, Crowley says five players on the women’s lacrosse team came out as openly LGBTQ.
“It was like a rainbow volcano erupted,” she said.
Apparently, Crowley started a trend. She stuck around campus to pursue her master’s degree, and struck up relationships with new players on the team. Suffice to say, the rainbow volcano was still erupting.
“I don’t know if it’s a Gen Z thing, or if it’s because the culture on the team changed, but there were so many openly gay women on the team, and it was just awesome,” she said. “It was just so amazing to see, and I’m so happy I stuck around to be able to see that evolution of the team.”
Today, Crowley identifies as sexually fluid, if she were to ascribe a label to herself. Currently, she’s dating the one straight guy who’s cool with her rejection of gender norms (kidding)!
“My boyfriend knows I will always be fluid—that’s just the way I am,” she said. “This evolution has just really changed me as a person, and just moving to different places, really led me to that growth.
“Giving yourself a chance is the hardest thing you can do.”
Click here to check out this episode of our Outsports podcast, The Sports Kiki. You can also subscribe to the show on Apple’s Podcast page as well as on Google Podcasts, and wherever you’ll find Outsports podcasts.