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WNBA First-Pick Brittney Griner Becomes Role Model For LGBT Community

Hallie Roth |
April 20, 2013 | 11:12 a.m. PDT


Brittney Griner's coming out means progress for the sports and LGBT communities. (Sphilbrick, Wikimedia Commons)
Brittney Griner's coming out means progress for the sports and LGBT communities. (Sphilbrick, Wikimedia Commons)
WNBA first-pick Brittney Griner shines in the face of adversity. In a recent conversation with Sports Illustrated’s Maggie Gray, Griner discussed sports and equality and opened up to the media for the first time about her homosexuality. 

The point of her message was to inform those that idolize her not to worry about what others think, and her public assertion represents one small step toward equality in the sports industry, specifically in women’s athletics.

Athleticism is “gendered” in the sense that it is associated with strength and masculine qualities. A stereotype exists that if you are a woman and you excel in athletics, you are more likely to be gay because of your apparent masculine qualities. While in this sense it may seem acceptable for a female athlete to be gay, this stereotype does not make it any easier for them to come out. Many female athletes in the national spotlight still hide their identities for fear of public judgment. UFC fighter, Liz Carmouche, hid her homosexuality until she finally became the first openly gay fighter in her sport this year. But, a potential sponsor once told her not to “be so over the top about [her homosexuality].”

Many females hide their sexuality because they fear people will associate lesbianism with athletic skill. In an interview, Daphne Blakey, an openly bisexual freshman lacrosse player said, “I think many women athletes hide their sexuality because they do not want their skills to be judged. If a girl comes out, people think she’s a good athlete because she’s gay, not that she’s a good athlete that happens to be gay. It’s a tricky cause and effect relationship—no one wants their identity to make them a walking stereotype.” 

Despite the issues female athletes face, Brittney Griner has proven to the public that it is possible to confront this stereotype rather than hide from it. While we may never eradicate this generalization, the ex-Baylor star decided to shrug her shoulders and ask, “so what?” So what if Griner is gay? She deserves the same respect for her skill as any other athlete who worked all of his or her life trying to make it to the top. Society may always associate lesbianism with female sports, but that should not get in the way of the ability a woman has worked so hard to perfect. We should applaud female athletes for their endurance and determination. It should not make a difference whether they are gay or straight. They are simply athletes.

The fact that such a high-profile basketball star was able to overcome such societal obstacles proves that we are inching our way toward a more open acceptance of homosexuality. Although one would argue that it more difficult to come out as a homosexual male athlete in the industry because of the masculinity attached to male athleticism, the industry has seen large improvements in acceptance. Robbie Rogers, a previous midfielder for the U.S. national soccer team, came out at the end of 2011. He feared rejection, but instead numerous male players supported him. Eddie Pope, a former U.S. soccer defender, said to him on Twitter, “Brave men like you will make it so that one day there is no need for an announcement.”

And maybe Pope is right. Maybe one day the terrible stigma associated with homosexuality in the sports industry will diminish. Griner did not make a large announcement; her simple comment made an impact. She demonstrated that homosexuality should not require any special attention as some sort of abnormality. Griner’s coming out may be only a fraction of a forward step amidst the current marriage equality fracas, but she has become a role model for young LGBT athletes across America and their allies. 

Brittney Griner just so happens to be a lesbian. She has not let that label define who she is as a basketball player and as a woman.


Reach Contributor Hallie Roth here.



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