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Gay Athletes: Is It Easier For A Women To Come Out Than A Man?
April 19, 2013
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WNBA # 1 Draft Pick Brittney Griner Just Came Out As Gay

There's been a lot of talk of late about the possibility that an active, team sport star would come out as gay.

Well, it's happened. And yet, as The New York Times put it, the sports world has pretty much shrugged.

The player is Brittney Griner - the number one pick in this week's WNBA draft and one of the greatest women college basketball players of all time.

She is a star, and her decision to come out could influence a generation of younger, gay athletes to do the same. It is a another big step toward acceptance and equality in society.

So, why - as The Times asks - does the sports world seem to be treating it as an afterthought?

"Because it was a woman," said Jim Buzinski, a founder of Outsports.com, a Web site about homosexuality and sports. "Can you imagine if it was a man who did the exact same thing? Everyone's head would have exploded."

For her part, Griner didn't really make a big deal out of it.

In an interview with SI.com (Sports Illustrated), she said "It really wasn't too difficult. I wouldn't say I was hiding or anything like that. I've always been open about who I am and my sexuality. So, it wasn't hard at all."

"If I can show that I'm out and I'm fine and everything's OK, then hopefully the younger generation will definitely feel the same way," she said.


Her coach at Baylor University Kim Mulkey told Outsports.com, "Brittney has heard more than her fair share of what I would consider personal taunts... Brittney Griner has had to endure more than any player that I've ever had to coach."

As for the reaction, The Times writes, "one of the best female athletes in the history of team sports comes out, and the reaction is roughly equivalent to what one might see when a baseball manager reveals his starting rotation for a three-game series in July."

"A few weeks ago, we had a story on Outsports about the rumors that an NFL player was going to come out - no one knew who, or anything more than that," Buzinski told The Times.

"All it had was, 'I think some player might possibly come out but I don't know who,' essentially."

"That story got 10 times the traffic of Brittney Griner, on video, saying that she is a lesbian," he said.

That could be, in part, due to the fact other WNBA players have come out already - most notably Sheryl Swoopes and Seimone Augustus.

women's-basketball-star-comes-out-sports-world-hardly-notices-feature4.jpg As well, individual sport athletes, such as tennis legend Martina Navratilova, have come out and kept playing.

But there definitely seems to be a double standard and perhaps a different level of comfort within society.

"We talk a lot in the L.G.B.T. community about how sexism is a big part of what contributes to homophobia," said Anna Aagenes, the executive director of GO! Athletes, a national network of L.G.B.T. athletes.

"It's disheartening when there are so many great role model female athletes out that we're so focused on waiting for a male pro athlete to come out in one of the four major sports."

Others say it also speaks to a bias around women athletes.

"In sports right now, there are two different stereotypes - that there are no gay male athletes, and every female athlete is a lesbian," said Patrick Burke, a founder of You Can Play which advocates for L.G.B.T. athletes.

"We've had tremendous success in getting straight male players to speak to the issue; we're having a tougher time finding straight female athletes speaking on this issue because they've spent their entire careers fighting the perception that they're a lesbian," he said.

Griner was asked by SI.com why it seems okay to come out in women's sports but not so much in men's sports.


"I really couldn't give an answer on why that's so different. Being one that's out, it's just being who you are. Again, like I said, just be who you are," she said.

Another factor, many say, is the tough, macho, "real man" culture in men's sports, as well as the traditional attitude and experience inside the male locker room.

"We're all waiting for the first gay, male, active athlete in a major professional team sport in North America to come out," Burke said. "That's something like eight adjectives or descriptors."

"We're all ignoring people who don't fit into those exact adjectives, and it's frustrating that we don't recognize the enormously important contributions that are already being made."

As for Griner, she offered this advice to anyone, in any walk of life, who's thinking about coming out.

"Don't worry about what other people are going to say, because they're always going to say something, but, if you're just true to yourself, let that shine through. Don't hide who you really are."

For more on all of this, check out LZ Granderson's piece on ESPN.com entitled, 'No Perfect Time'.

Granderson writes "there are people wondering whether there are gay football players?
Of course there are. And one day one or more of them will come out."

He goes on to say "Some will call the gay player a hero. Some will call him a f*****. And then, a new storyline will grab our attention and life will go on."

He concludes by suggesting "if a team learned an openly gay player had scored the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl, no franchise would send the trophy back."

There's also Jay Busbee's piece for Yahoo Sports entitled, 'Brittney Griner Coming Out Is No Big Deal & That's A Big Deal

Related stories

The NHL & NHLPA Are Partnering With You Can Play To Fight Homophobia

Being Gay In The NFL: The Culture, The Fear Of Coming Out, The Changing Attitudes

Changing The Game: UFC Fighter & Two NFLers Speak Out In Support Of Marriage Equality


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