Top NCAA gymnasts are making their opposition known to the raft of anti-LGBTQ bills being filed in state legislatures throughout the U.S.
Over the weekend, multiple gymnasts competing in the NCAA championships used the hashtag #FlippingExhausted to voice their disagreements with the bigoted policies, many of which target transgender and nonbinary youth. Nearly 240 anti-LGBTQ bills have already been proposed nationwide this year, according to NBC News.
Connor McCool, an All-American who competes for the University of Illinois, used the hashtag before his performance in the NCAA men’s championships at the University of Oklahoma. Oklahoma’s governor recently signed a bill banning transgender girls and women from competing on female sports teams.
“Thrilled to be competing at the NCAA championships today,” McCool tweeted Friday. “At the same time I’m #flippingexhausted that across the country and in the state of Oklahoma, lawmakers are pushing legislation targeting trans youth and their families. I’m standing with trans youth and you should to!”
Thrilled to be competing at the NCAA championships today. At the same time I’m #flippingexhausted that across the country and in the state of Oklahoma, lawmakers are pushing legislation targeting trans youth and their families. I’m standing with trans youth and you should to! pic.twitter.com/ZkkAKg19xK— Connor McCool (@_connormccool) April 15, 2022
That’s such an awesome message, and the quintessential example of an athlete using their platform to support inclusion. Mia Takekawa, who also competes for Illinois, used the #FlippingExhausted hashtag as well before the start of the women’s championships (out gymnast Sirena Linton won second-team All-American honors in balance beam).
The event was held in Texas, perhaps the new ground zero for anti-trans laws. Texas governor Gregg Abbott recently ordered that parents seeking care for their transgender children should be prosecuted for child abuse.
Competing at the NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championships in Fort Worth is the opportunity of a lifetime, and I'm thrilled to have the chance. But I'm also #FlippingExhausted that Texas lawmakers keep attacking transgender kids and their families. pic.twitter.com/6G7d9MrIjF— Mia Takekawa (@mia_takekawa) April 15, 2022
For Jackson Harrison, a queer and nonbinary gymnast at Arizona State who wrote their coming-out story last year for Outsports, it’s been heartening to see support from the gymnastics community. Though male gymnastics is often stereotyped as a “gay sport,” Harrison wrote about how displays of masculinity are actually engrained in its culture.
The only way that will change is if athletes speak out.
“I know all athletes coming together is such a big thing, but the power is in our hands to do what we think is the best thing,” they told Outsports. “We’re the ones who are out in the spotlight, out working hard, and being criticized by everyone. I think we need to realize that, and take that power and use it for good. And right now, the good is for those youths who aren’t being allowed to participate in sports as they should be.”
Harrison used their power to write openly about their experiences as an out LGBTQ gymnast. Since the piece was published, Harrison says they’ve been approached several times at events by people who want to talk about LGBTQ issues in sports and gymnastics.
It’s a role that Harrison relishes playing.
“It gave me the platform that I was kind of hoping for,” they said. “It gave me a voice to actually speak on these issues and be known within the gymnastics community.”
It’s great to see more NCAA gymnasts joining Harrison in the fight.