Today I went to Philadelphia to participate in a panel discussion and workshop about LGBTQ inclusion in athletics for Central League administrators, athletic directors (ADs) and coaches. The training was led by Pat Griffin (who pretty much wrote the book on the LGBTQ inclusion in sports, many years ago) and funded by a grant from the LGBT Sports Coalition and Nike.
The day began with a basic overview of LGBTQ terminology, and then some key points about inclusion. We moved into the panel discussion to share our personal stories, with Nora Cothren (hockey), Seth Pamperin (tennis), and me. Nora did a great job of setting this up at her former high school, and the hope is that a similar training could take place with coaches in the spring. It was also great to hear Seth share his story as a top tennis player and as a religious person. My story seemed to hijack the conversation a little bit, because the ADs were interested in creating policies for trans* athletes.
Trans* inclusion seems to be the most difficult topic at the high school level; this was somewhat encouraging, because for the most part it seemed like the folks present understood that lesbian and gay athletes are out there (many raised their hands saying they had coached them or known of gay athletes on their teams in the past) and that they need to be included on teams, which left trans* identities as the area of the unknown.
I love doing panels like this, and I absolutely love hearing Nora share her experiences. We each have such a different experience in our understanding of ourselves, how we came to that understanding, how we coped along the way, and how we came out.
There were several incredible moments in this workshop: hearing some of the thoughtful and sensitive questions asked by administrators gave me hope that proactive measures for inclusion are a very real possibility, seeing the moment when one of the folks realized a solution to a facilities issue they were faced with, and hearing a participant talk through their changed perception of a student experience were all amazing snippets. But I think the highlight of this event for me was hearing Pat tell Nora and me about her mother – seeing Pat laugh so hard about a memory of covering and exposing her own identity really hit home for me. It was a special memory that I felt privileged to witness.
This was another excellent event that I was fortunate to participate in. Many thanks to Nora, Pat, and Seth for allowing me to share today with them.