There has been speculation for weeks that a pro athlete would come out and since then sponsors, franchises and would-be Basketball Husbands have waited with bated breath. But while we were all collectively waiting to exhale, WNBA #1 draft pick Brittney Griner came out to little fanfare. Reason being: she’s a woman.
“Can you imagine if it was a man who did the exact same thing?” Outsports’ Jim Buzinski asked The New York Times. “Everyone’s head would have exploded.”
In an interview with SportsIllustrated.com, Griner was asked why this disparity between male and female athletes exists, since there are out athletes in women’s sports, which is when she dropped the non-bomb:
“I really couldn’t give an answer on why that’s so different. Being one that’s out, it’s just being who you are. Again, like I said, just be who you are. Don’t worry about what other people are going to say, because they’re always going to say something, but, if you’re just true to yourself, let that shine through. Don’t hide who you really are.”
The truth is, everyone’s waiting for a male pro athlete to come out in the male-dominated world of sports because the stereotype still exists that gay men are less inclined to be good at sports, and more inclined to be snapping towels in the locker room, thus distracting everyone from the task at hand.
Yet the stereotype dogging female athletes is the foregone conclusion that they’re all lesbians anyway, so they don’t have to come out so much as confirm what is expected of them to begin with.
“We talk a lot in the LGBT community about how sexism is a big part of what contributes to homophobia,” said Anna Aagenes, executive director of GO! Athletes, a national network of LGBT athletes. “It’s disheartening when there are so many great role model female athletes out that we’re so focused on waiting for a male pro athlete to come out in one of the four major sports.”
And according to You Can Play‘s Patrick Burke, it’s that same stereotype that prevents straight female athletes from stepping up and speaking out like the Chris Kluwes and Brendon Ayanbadejos of the world.
“In sports right now, there are two different stereotypes — that there are no gay male athletes, and every female athlete is a lesbian,” Burke said. “We’ve had tremendous success in getting straight male players to speak to the issue; we’re having a tougher time finding straight female athletes speaking on this issue because they’ve spent their entire careers fighting the perception that they’re a lesbian.”
While Burke notes how “frustrating” it is that we’re all too preoccupied with “the first gay, male, active athlete in a major professional team sport in North America” to come out to notice the contributions of people like Griner who don’t fit into that particular description, the future Phoenix Mercury centre is quietly setting a good example.
“I’ve always been open about who I am and my sexuality,” she told SI.com. “If I can show that I’m out and I’m fine and everything’s OK, then hopefully the younger generation will definitely feel the same way.”
So maybe we can all breathe a little easier.
Photo: Brittney Griner’s Twitter