LINDSY FARRELL: ACCEPT YOUR TRUE SELF-sanewnetworks
Sport was the only time I felt like I could be myself and disconnect from the rest of the world. It was half of my personality, the other half is a lesbian in sports. Having enrolled in McDaniel College in Maryland as a freshman playing soccer and lacrosse, I was still closed but deliberately chose not to go to high school for fear of bullying.
I knew college was a great opportunity to find myself in a safe place, and I left in my first year. My aha moment was actually a moment that I don’t wish for anyone in the community. It was in the playoffs with Johns Hopkins and I was preparing for a penalty kick to propel my team to the championship. When I walked over to kick, a fan yelled at me, Hey number six, you sound like a lesbian.
My world froze and my heart beat faster. I felt like I was in a different universe, and I could not concentrate, as I immediately felt insecure about who I was as an athlete. I thought I could hide this part of myself and no one would notice, but someone did it.
As a result, I missed a penalty due to the large headroom, which cost us a trip to the championship. I got even worse – now I’m a dam and can’t take my team to the championship? This made me want to go out and simply admit myself without fear of who I really was.
That semester, I decided to perform in front of my lacrosse team and coaching staff in the Executioner game. That would be a serious statement that I could handle and tell my teammates and coaches who I was behind that jersey number. My sister and best friend on the team were the only ones who knew I was gay and they supported me all the time. I walked over to the board and drew lines corresponding to the phrase Coach, I’m gay. My sister and friend started shouting letters to match the spaces, and I nervously filled them in as everyone watched.
I was getting ready to write gay and it was easy to write because I accepted who I was. My teammates and coaches understood what I was writing about, and soon I was bombarded with hugs, applause and loving words. I finally dropped out and knew I was supported by my teammates and coaches.
This experience inspired me to write my main diploma and dissertation on “How a sports team can influence the process of recognition of LGBTQ + in college sports”. My research was the first published qualitative analysis of LGBTQ + by our communications and marketing department at McDaniel.
I learned even more about myself by doing this research, hearing other open or closed athletes tell their stories, and they rely on me as an outlet and someone to talk to safely. I felt more connected not only with the sports community, but now with my community as an LGBTQ + member.