When All-American defensive lineman Michael Sam proclaimed that he was an openly gay man during an interview with ESPN reporter Chris Connelly, he dropped a bomb on the world of professional American sports. He was the first player to claim a non-heterosexual orientation, aside from the few who did so after their careers were over. Sam had already told his teammates and coaches on the University of Missouri football team before their season in August, and he felt that he was obligated to inform his potential future employers before the upcoming National Football League draft in May. Sam’s courage has opened up the question to something that previously has only been talked about behind closed doors: can open members of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community fully function in professional sports?
It should not come as a shock to anyone that there are gay football players. Or gay basketball players. Or gay athletes. Statistically speaking, 5.6 percent of Americans self identify as gay or bisexual. Logic would also dictate that 5.6 percent of athletes are as well. That is also not to mention the large numbers of people who are not publicly open with their sexual orientation, which would add considerably to the percentage of the population that does not identify as heterosexual.
LGBT rights are an issue that permeates American society, from the professional world to colleges and high schools. High school is a time when people come to terms with who they are as people. They become more self-aware and conscious of their place in the world. Sexual identity is an important part of a teenager’s coming of age, and it is difficult enough to deal with individually, let alone as part of a sports team.
The jury is not yet out on the science of sexual orientation. There are strong cases and studies that support the concept that people are born into their sexual orientation: they have no choice in the matter. It is a combination of genetics and hormones that the fetus experiences en utero, much like what makes a child left-handed or right-handed.
However, there are also studies that say sexual orientation comes from the environment they are brought up in and choices that they make. Skeptics of biological homosexuality claim that there is no concrete proof on the issue.
At Manual, a place known for its diverse background, there is an equally diverse opinion on the subject.
“I’m just not really comfortable with having a gay guy in the locker room,” said football and basketball player Tim Comstock (10, HSU). “I don’t want to have to worry about him looking at me when I’m changing or getting in the shower. It’s not fair for everyone else to feel awkward just because of one kid.”
However, his sentiment is not shared by everyone at Manual. Various students have taken a much more progressive stance on the issue
“I wouldn’t care,” said lacrosse player Brenton Wolford (11, HSU). “If they worked hard and were a nice guy it would be fine with me.”
“I would be fine with it,” said soccer player Lauren Fiscus (12, HSU). “I might be uncomfortable with certain things at first but as long as she respected the normal boundaries I am sure it would be the same as having a straight teammate.”
Athletics are a great opportunity to learn life skills such as leadership, perseverance, and working with others towards a common goal. They are a doorway to friendships that can last a lifetime, and provide a healthy outlet for anger and aggression. Nobody should feel excluded from the wonderful opportunity that athletics provide before they even step on the field. There is no place for discrimination in sports. It is ignorant. It is insensitive. And it is wrong. For years we have recognized that fact in regards to race and gender. It’s time that we extend the same protection for the LGBT community.