On Monday night, athletes from women’s club rugby, men’s and women’s track and field, men’s tennis, and men and women’s basketball teams, some of whom are in sororities and fraternities, shared their views on the challenges gay students face both on athletic teams and in Greek organizations at Yale.
The panelists on Monday’s discussion included Gabby Kelly ’12, the captain of the women’s track and field team and a member of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, Andrew Goble ’15, a member of the track and field team and Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, and Joel Samaha ’12 of the men’s tennis team. Stefan Palios ’14, a member of the track and field team, mediated the discussion.
Kelly and Samaha both discussed the frustration queer athletes experience on their teams. Their teammates’ ignorance seemed to be the main source of frustration for gay athletes. Most of the approximately 20 attendees of Monday’s discussion said that teams must set a standard of behavior to respect all athletes, regardless of sexual orientation.
Samaha said that on the first day of practice his coach, Alex Dorato, brought the team together to lay down ground rules of things that would not be said on his courts. These words included racial slurs and homophobic comments, and Dorato explained that they are not appropriate even in jest, Samaha said.
The participants in Monday’s discussion said that as leaders and members of campus organizations, Yalies need to think about how they talk, especially because there are probably some people within their organizations that are not straight and need to know that they have a supportive and welcoming community, regardless of their sexual orientation.
Samaha added that although his coach has been very supportive, he has heard some cases of coaches using homophobic slurs, and that “is just inexcusable.”
Palios asked if coming out is more difficult within a larger group such as a fraternity or sorority, as opposed to within a smaller team like tennis or rugby.
Kelly said she does not believe team or organizaton size makes a difference.
“It’s an issue within both sports teams and sororities, and it’s something Pi Phi, Kappa, and Theta should talk about,” Kelly said. “Events like these are great, and team captains should be required to go to these meetings.” Hilary O’Connell ’14, president of the LGBTQ Co-op, made it clear that a person’s sexual orientation has nothing to do with his or her ability as an athlete.
But Samaha added that there is a certain “circle of masculinity,” and no one wants to put a dent in the success and unity of the team when all members are focused on a common goal, making it difficult to come out while on a team.
Will Ferraro ’13, a member of lightweight crew, said he did not think that it was a masculinity issue.
“If someone were out on the team, I don’t think anyone would care,” Ferraro said. “We want the boats to move fast, and if they are tough and can move boats, their sexual orientation really doesn’t matter.”
Although the event was well-attended, Palios said that the same groups are attending Athletes and Allies events every time and yet the same large teams have no openly gay members. Athletes and Allies events are designed to provoke discussion on attitudes towards sexual orientation on sports teams and what can be done to increase acceptance of athletes who do not identify as straight.
This event was arranged by LGBTQ Co-op as part of Pride@Yale.