Students sign LGBTQ ally pledge
Twenty-five University student athletes signed the Athlete Ally Pledge yesterday to support their teammates and all athletes in the community regardless of their sexual orientation.
Project Civility and the Dean of Students Office collaborated the Wednesday night event, said Senior Dean of Students Mark Schuster, who co-founded the project last year as a two-year, University-wide initiative.
Hudson Taylor, a former wrestler at the University of Maryland, created the Athlete Ally Pledge as a means of showing support for athletes who feel isolated because of their sexual orientation, Schuster said.
“Sports is one of those areas where it’s taboo to talk about being a [lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person] so an event like this encourages allies and athletes that are part of the LGBT community to come out and show their support,” said Charlie Mott, co-president of the Queer Student Alliance.
The event highlighted experiences of two former student athletes, Brian Sims and Sean Smith, in short films by alumnus Andrew Germek.
Sims, captain of the football team at Bloomsburg University, said he found acceptance from both his teammates and his parents when he revealed to them he was gay.
Sims said he wants this acceptance for everyone.
“I know that in order for my experience to be the norm we have to keep working at it,” Sims said during a panel discussion that followed the films.
Smith, who graduated in 2005, was a member of the University swim team. During the short film about his experiences, he revealed he was depressed during his senior year of college.
The depression, he said in the film, stemmed from his uncertainty regarding his sexuality and the loneliness he felt.
“I didn’t know how to be a gay man and live in the athletic community,” Smith said.
He said he hopes the Athlete Ally Pledge will help other athletes who are going through similar experiences
“I wasn’t out yet when I joined the rugby team, and if it hadn’t been for the support of my teammates I never would have told my parents,” said Kathleen Kerwin, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior.
After coming out to her parents, Kerwin said she played one of the best games of her life. She also said signing the pledge is a great way to show support for teammates as well as of all LGBT members in athletics.
“Being an athlete is stressful enough — the feeling that your teammates wouldn’t accept you or your sexuality is such a burden that I wouldn’t want on anyone,” said Kara Trivolis, a School of Arts and Sciences junior and a member of the women’s rowing team.
Sims said with the increasing number of professional athletes “coming out,” he hopes more lesbian and gay student athletes will find acceptance among their peers.
“In a few years, my experience will be the norm,” Sims said.
A total of 4,409 athletes across the nation have signed the pledge to “respect and welcome all persons, regardless of their perceived or actual sexual orientation.”
“As athletes, we need to give up a lot of things in order to succeed, but this isn’t something that needs to be given up,” Smith said. “People shouldn’t have to choose between being gay and being an athlete.”