As you've probably heard, Tom Daley came out earlier this week. (I recommend that you watch his YouTube video.) The responses vary from being supportive to downright rude (read some of the Twitter posts or YouTube comments). But what does it mean in this day and age to come out when being on a sports team (or on an Olympic team)?
We've all probably seen how people in high school or middle school react when someone comes out. Most of the time, it isn't pretty. Bullying increases, and then humiliation is brought upon the courageous teen to tween that took the leap of faith of sharing their true feelings to the peers among them. When people come out in sports, it's worse. Homophobia seems to be present in everyone, everywhere. I do not doubt that bullying becomes worse for the person who recently came out. It is truly sad that people make fun of a person's sexual orientation.
While we see the sad side of coming out if you participate in athletics or at school, there are resources for LGBT athletes, now more than ever. One of them is the You Can Play Project (youcanplayproject.org). Supporters range from high school students, to the famed alternative band Fun. The overall message is equality for ALL athletics, no matter the sexual orientation. Another great outlet for education of discrimination in sports is Athlete Ally (www.athleteally.org). I encourage you to check them out. Some of the stories shared on those sites are very moving. Both of their overall messages are inspiring and beneficial.
The main message here is this: Everyone should have a chance at playing sports, and should not be discriminated against just because they happen to like someone of the same sex. Athletics gives a chance for people to bond over one very important value -- winning. Whether you are in London or Louisiana, winning is the number one priority of a sports team.
And what's the common core of sports? Right, be a team. Work together to get the results that you and your team wants. In order to do that, people need to regard others feelings, and put opinions off to the side. We have a game to win here people! Besides, how can we focus on anything else BESIDES winning? So leave the negative thoughts alone! Focus on sticking through the game, whatever sport it may be for.
I hope that in the future we will see more and more athletes not be afraid of coming out to their teammates. I hope that when they do come out, people will be happy, or supportive of them. Opinions should be left on the field, and not present a daily basis.
On one final note, I want to leave you with one thing -- times are changing, whether we may approve it or not. If you are gay and want to play sports, do it. If you want to make a change in athletics for LGBT people, do it, because your voice means something. It always does. Being LGBT in athletics in the 21st century doesn't have to be viewed negatively.