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Out gymnast Mina Margraf opens up about the challenges of being queer at BYU

Margraf says the school’s culture is changing, but lots of work still needs to be done.

Mina Margraf accepted a full-ride scholarship to BYU last fall.
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Mina Margraf didn’t have a lot of time to think about her sexuality growing up. An elite gymnast, Margraf spent the bulk of her free time training. There was only time to work, sleep and eat — rinse and repeat.

But that changed when Margraf suffered a series of elbow injuries, temporarily keeping her away from the gym. That’s when she started really thinking about herself. After committing to BYU, the Houston native realized she was bisexual. Margraf’s young sister came out around that time, giving her the push to follow suit.

Now, Margraf is discovering herself as a queer woman at Brigham Young University. She opened up about her experiences on “The Queer Athlete” podcast hosted by Emma Gee, herself LGBTQ and a former BYU track and field team member.

One of the prevailing themes from their conversation are the complexities within BYU. While Margraf says the school is trying to change its historically repressive culture, hearing anti-gay remarks on campus — and around other athletes — is still a relatively regular occurrence.

“It’s definitely hard. It does feel a little bit isolating, because you hear people say things here and there — some offense things that you have to push aside and keep moving on with your life,” she said. “It does pile up and it does kind of wear on your shoulders. Being in an environment where you don’t feel as supported in that aspect is challenging.”

Margraf, a freshman on the women’s gymnastics team, cites an incident that happened during summer term as one of those times. She was in the car with several athlete friends, and one of them shouted “faggots!” at pro-LGBTQ protesters standing outside the church.

Nobody spoke up in her defense.

“That kind of broke my heart,” she said. “When you’re the only person in the car who identifies as being part of the LGBTQ+ community, it’s really nice to have that support rather than you just saying it alone.”

Fortunately, Margraf enjoys her parents’ unequivocal support. At a young age, she says they taught her about the dignity of LGBTQ people, even banning the term “normal relationships” around the house.

That strong familiar foundation gave Margraf the confidence to come via TikTok. Her gymnastics coach follows her, and Margraf presumes he seen the video.

Margraf says her sexuality isn’t an issue among her teammates, even though some hold conservative views.

“I feel pretty supported by my teammates,” she said. “I do know some of them have beliefs against the LGBTQ+ community, but they don’t talk about that.”

BYU high jumper Ty Wright, who also recently appeared on Gee’s podcast, said he enjoys the total backing of his teammates. The landscape at BYU is changing.

But there is still a ways to go.

“I definitely think they are trying to change the culture. They’re putting in that effort,” Margraf said. “I think that’s a very positive thing they’re trying to do, but there’s definitely a lot more work that needs to be done.”

You can listen to the full podcast here and follow Margraf on Instagram here.