Former Baylor basketball player Brittney Griner came out several weeks ago with little attention, but she’s already using her announcement to speak to LGBT youth in an “It Gets Better” video.
In the video, Griner talks about being different growing up and being teased because of it, but she says she’s “6-8 walking proof” that things get better.
“As somebody that grew up taller than everybody, a little bit different than everybody, always voiced my opinion on my sexuality and who I was as an individual,” she said. “I got teased. With big hands, a little deeper voice, big feet. … It was hard growing up but you have to find an outlet. Basketball was my outlet.”
Griner, the WNBA No. 1 Draft pick, wrote about her coming out experience to her family as a teen in The New York Times yesterday. She addresses that while she didn’t feel the need to come out publicly until recently, being gay doesn’t define her any more than being a basketball star defines her.
In the NYT piece, she expresses her pride in Jason Collins for becoming the first male pro-athlete to come out while still playing. But she doesn’t address the lack of attention she received when she came out compared to the media firestorm surrounding Collins’ announcement.
Collins was praised for his trailblazing declaration last week by national media. When Griner came out a few weeks before, people barely blinked, and only sports media covered it.
While female athletes are often assumed to be gay — especially if they are masculine — Griner certainly isn’t the first to come out. Tennis players Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova led the way in the ’80s. And major male sports have always attracted larger audiences and have been plagued with more homophobia.
Still, that’s no excuse.
When the No. 1 Draft pick in any sport comes out, it’s news. And it’s rude to assume masculine women athletes are lesbians. It’s just as offensive to assume a gay male athlete must retire before coming out.
But just as Collins broke the mold by coming out and still continuing his career, he’s set the pace for more male athletes to be true to themselves and come out still playing. That’s where I agree with Griner in her NYT piece. I, too, am “more optimistic than ever that people are ready” for more gay athletes to come out.
Watch the video below.