Can you believe that there is only one officially out lesbian women’s college basketball coach? One. One out of more than 350 teams. One. That one is Sherri Murrell, head coach of Portland State University’s team, reports Anna Clark of Salon.com, who in “Lesbian athletes just can’t win”, writes on the rampant homophobia in US women’s sports, particularly college basketball.
It’s a ridiculous statistic in what must be sports’ biggest glass closet, but Clark attempts to show how the lesbian stigma has forced lesbian athletes to keep hush about their personal lives; furthermore, sports organizations and programs have gone out of their way to attempt to change the perception of female athletes as queer by commercially presenting athletes and staff as sexy and desirable, or regular married with kids folk in an embarrassing display of heteronormativity.
Homophobia is rife at every level: pro and collegiate, coaches and athletes, in the box seats and in the bleachers. Despite (or because of?) the use of “lesbian” as a denigrating label for women in sports, almost no athletes or coaches are out.
Unfortunately, and perhaps as a result of the this, Clark doesn’t interview any lesbian athletes (open or closeted ones), only mentioning the legendary Sheryl Swoopes, the first and only WNBA athlete to come out. But of course, it’s these voices we need to hear, and continue to hear to create more cracks in this silence about queer women in sports. Clark correctly summarizes:
But the need for collective action remains. Homophobia is so endemic to women’s sports that it calls for nothing less than endemic action, pulling together fans, boosters, coaches, owners, athletes, funders, trainers, athletic directors, sportswriters, administrators, parents, elementary school gym teachers and small-town softball coaches —everyone.
[Photo: Sheryl Swoopes, the first and only WNBA to come out]