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Changing the Game

This is the post excerpt.

Physical education classes have been shown to have positive effects elementary and high school youth.  Not only does gym class have academic benefits, but it also strengthens students’ identification with their schools.  However, for LGBT students, this is not always the case.  These students reported being harassed and verbally or physically assaulted during these classes.  In 2011, 52.8 % of LGBT youth reported being harassed in gym class due to their sexual orientation.  This causes LGBT students to avoid gym classes, as well as after school sports, preventing them from gaining access to the beneficial effects of athletics.

One program, called Changing the Game: The GLSEN Sports Project, has developed methods to help LGBT students gain access to sports.  The program uses tools to help students and teachers evaluate their schools’ culture and implement change.  One resource for students is an article entitled “Bring Your A game”, which explains the difference between being an ally and a bystander.  Bringing your ‘A game’ refers to being an ally and a leader to stand up for others and prevent bullying and harassment.  Being a bystander means that you allow this discrimination to occur, sending the message that these actions are appropriate. One of the ways a student can be an ally is by asking a coach or teacher to participate in the “Safe Sports Space Campaign”.  This involves creating a sports space in which students, coaches, and spectators are treated with respect, and bullying and name-calling is not tolerated.  GLSEN suggests that students and coaches post Safe Sport Space rules in the gym and review them with P.E. classes and athletic teams.  These rules may include things such as no teasing, no name-calling, treat others with respect, and all are welcome.

Another resource that students and coaches can use is a climate checklist.  This is a tool that evaluates the level of discrimination within a school.  If the climate is determined to be discriminatory, students can then work to implement change.  One way to do this is explained by the “Game Plan for Athletes”, which provides tips for how to make an athletic team welcoming to LGBT students.  This includes an inside game and a one on one game.  The inside game involves working with yourself to learn more about discrimination, avoid making prejudiced assumptions, and making a pact with yourself to be an ally to LGBT team members.  The One on One game involves working with others to treat teammates with respect, use leadership roles to promote an open school climate, and support LGBT teammates.  These resources provide students and coaches with ways to  stand up to intolerance and create an equal, respectful athletic culture.

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Coming Out to Your Teammates: Private Schools

It is impossible to state that an LGBT athlete will experience a particular reaction for coming out in a private or Catholic school in contrast to a public school. One may think that a Catholic institution would prove to be an oppressive environment for an LGBT athlete, and while that is certainly the case at certain schools, students have had the opposite experience at other colleges and universities. Of the four cases presented in this blog post, two students had positive coming out experiences within their sports teams, and two students experienced negative reactions from their teammates and coaches to coming out.

An article by Eric Anderson from the University of California mentions the coming out experiences of two student athletes attending separate private universities. At a private university in California, a member of the crew team, Ryan, came out to his coaches and fellow teammates immediately by wearing gay pride jewelry to try-outs. Throughout his experience on the crew team, Ryan never experienced negative comments from his coaches or teammates. However, Ryan knew that a road trip might prove to be a test of this demeanor. Upon traveling, himself and the other athletes assigned to the same room combined the hotel beds together in an effort to show Ryan that they did not feel uncomfortable sharing a bed with him. Ryan’s experience on the crew team at this California University proved to be entirely positive, and he experienced no discrimination based on his sexuality.

Gabriel, a student at a different private university, experienced negative reactions from particular teammates after coming out at a summer running camp. Although this sentiment was not shared by every member of the team, one of his teammates refused to continue with the camp after hearing that Gabriel was gay. Anderson noted that while conducting the research to write this article, most of the athletes he interviewed chose not to let discriminatory behavior on behalf of their teammates or coaches affect them. Anderson also noted that most athletes believed that they were fully accepted by their teammates, but upon further investigation into sharing rooms during travel, the treatment of their partners, and discussions of their homosexuality some athletes came to realize they experienced more discrimination than they had noticed.

Coming Out to Your Team: Private Schools

It is impossible to state that an LGBT athlete will experience a particular reaction for coming out in a private or Catholic school in contrast to a public school. One may think that a Catholic institution would prove to be an oppressive environment for an LGBT athlete, and while that is certainly the case at certain schools, students have had the opposite experience at other colleges and universities. Of the two cases presented in this blog post, one students had a positive coming out experience within his sports team, and the other student experienced negative reactions from his teammates and coaches to coming out.

An article by Eric Anderson from the University of California mentions the coming out experiences of two student athletes attending separate private universities. At a private university in California, a member of the crew team, Ryan, came out to his coaches and fellow teammates immediately by wearing gay pride jewelry to try-outs. Throughout his experience on the crew team, Ryan never experienced negative comments from his coaches or teammates. However, Ryan knew that a road trip might prove to be a test of this demeanor. Upon traveling, himself and the other athletes assigned to the same room combined the hotel beds together in an effort to show Ryan that they did not feel uncomfortable sharing a bed with him. Ryan’s experience on the crew team at this California University proved to be entirely positive, and he experienced no discrimination based on his sexuality.

Gabriel, a student at a different private university, experienced negative reactions from particular teammates after coming out at a summer running camp. Although this sentiment was not shared by every member of the team, one of his teammates refused to continue with the camp after hearing that Gabriel was gay. Anderson noted that while conducting the research to write this article, most of the athletes he interviewed chose not to let discriminatory behavior on behalf of their teammates or coaches affect them. Anderson also noted that most athletes believed that they were fully accepted by their teammates, but upon further investigation into sharing rooms during travel, the treatment of their partners, and discussions of their homosexuality some athletes came to realize they experienced more discrimination than they had noticed.