TCU LGBT alumni group forms

Organizer says school has been helpful, supportive in forming group for gay graduates

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

There are some schools that are — or have been — affiliated with religious institutions that  not only wouldn’t welcome an LGBT alumni group, they would block such a group outright.

But when Doug Thompson, a graduate of Fort Worth’s Texas Christian University, associated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), approached his alma mater’s alumni association about forming an LGBT affiliate, he said, the response was, “Absolutely. No problem.”

TCU’s new LGBT alumni group will hold its first large meeting on Saturday, Oct. 22, after the TCU homecoming game. Thompson acknowledged that sports isn’t the main concern of many LGBT alumni, but homecoming is still a time when many alumni return to visit the campus.

Thompson said when he asked the alumni association whether the LGBT group would need approval by the school’s administration, he was told the administration would back it. The group was approved in April.

Unlike Baylor University, which sued to keep its LGBT alumni from using the school name to organize a group, Thompson said there has been no objection from the TCU campus.

“We just want to get people involved however they want to be involved,” Kristi Hoban, associate vice chancellor alumni of relations, said. “We just reach out, whether it’s a class or the business school or a special interest group.”

She said that black alumni were not participating until the Black Alumni Alliance formed about 11 years ago. Now, she said, they’re active leaders in class reunions, homecoming and department alumni events, adding that she hopes to see the same thing happen with the LGBT network.

Finding LGBT alumni hasn’t been easy, Thompson said, as students aren’t asked about their sexual orientation before they graduate.

But Thompson said about 120 alumni have already responded, mostly to calls on social media sites. And now that the school has a Gay Straight Alliance, he said, finding future alumni will be easier.

“Our goal will be to support gay and lesbian students and start a scholarship,” Thompson said. “And we’ll form activities around things gay alumni have an interest in.”

He mentioned support for the Trinity Shakespeare Festival on campus as a direction for the group.

Thompson said that having an LGBT alumni group will help the school provide a better environment for its LGBT students.

Two years ago, TCU proposed setting aside dorm space for LGBT students. A week after the announcement, when only eight students had signed up for the housing, the school scrapped those plans.

“That got totally blown out of proportion,” Hoban said.

She said the intention was never segregated housing but really just an LGBT campus group.
Thompson said the school would have avoided the bad publicity if it had the alumni group to guide them.

The LGBT alumni group will get together after the homecoming game against New Mexico on Saturday, Oct. 22. They will meet at Tommy’s Hamburgers’ Camp Bowie Boulevard location from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

…………………

OUT, PROUD ATHLETE

Pryor.Victor

Victor Pryor

Perhaps one of the best known Texas Christian University grads that will be attending the new LGBT alumni group’s meeting this weekend is Vincent Pryor, a TCU Horned Frogs football star from 1994.

That year, before the final game of the season against the Texas Tech Red Raiders, Pryor came out to his teammates. Rather than shunning him, Pryor’s coach told him he was proud of his honesty

“My teammates and my coaches overwhelmingly supported and accepted me,” Pryor writes on his website, VincentPryor.com. “All of the fears and concerns I had about being kicked off the team, or losing my scholarship, or embarrassing my school — none of that happened.  And the best part of it was that I became a better athlete after I came out.”

That day, Pryor had the biggest game of his college career, tallying a record 4.5 sacks — a record that still stands today. His performance helped TCU win the conference title and a berth in a post-season bowl game.

Today, Pryor works in sales and lives in Chicago with his partner of 12 years, who was a classmate at TCU. To watch his just-
released an “It Gets Better” video, below.

—  Kevin Thomas

Ex-TCU linebacker Vincent Pryor came out as gay to teammates before setting sack record in 1994

Seventeen years after setting a school sack record during a landmark victory over Texas Tech, ex-TCU linebacker Vincent Pryor has revealed that he came out as gay to his teammates before the game:

“I knew that at the end of this game I was going to be free. I can be who I am. I am a gay athlete who just so happens to play football. I had no regrets. Everyone knows I’m gay. … I was just at peace with myself.”

“He was a beast” on the field, said Marcus Allen, Pryor’s teammate and the team’s middle linebacker. “I do believe that once he came out of the closet, he did feel relieved. You did notice something different about him. He was always happy, he felt good about himself, he felt like didn’t have anything to hide.”

Pryor’s 4 ½ sacks still stand in the TCU record book (he shares it with David Spradlin from 1987) as do his 34 sack yards. But that’s not why Pryor’s story is worth telling. Rather, it’s his journey of acceptance as an openly gay man and athlete in our most macho sport.

Pryor now lives in Chicago with his partner, whom he met at TCU but didn’t start dating until four years after they graduated. Read the full story from Jim Buzinski at OutSports here. And watch Pryor’s video for the “It Gets Better” project below.

—  Rich Lopez

Jerett on the BLOCK: Being single doesn’t calm DIVA member about his first bachelor auction

DATE A DIVA | Walters started playing volleyball two years ago. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

Jerett Walters is about to go on the auction block, and one thing is racing through his mind: “What did I get myself into?”

This is only his second season with DIVA, the Dallas Independent Volleyball Association, and they already have him selling himself.

Walters, 25, will join about 10 of his teammates for the annual DIVA Bachelor Auction Sunday. The event is a fundraiser for the team — a good cause. That’s why Walters agreed to do it. But he has his misgivings.

First off, Walters, a graduate student in journalism at UTD, has never even attended a bachelor auction, let alone been the subject of one. In addition, though he’s single and dating (no one in particular at the moment), he’s not sure what being “won” will mean.

“Standing on that block, waiting for people to judge me, taking my control away … I’m not a fan,” he says. “I have friends positioned in the audience to bid on me,” guaranteeing a certain minimum bid to soothe his ego. But they are under strict instructions: “If [I’m being bid on] by a cute boy, let him bid — I don’t care if I go for a dollar.”

Walters isn’t exactly sure what the full package he’s being bid on will entail, but he specified that he wanted a group date, and knows it’ll take place this Wednesday, March 2 — just a few days after the auction.

So what is he looking for on a fun date?

“Something random,” he says. “Be yourself and be fun without the pressure of a first date. And not a classic-dinner-and-a-movie date. Let’s go bowling or talk about golf.”

Or, maybe, volleyball.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 25, 2011.

—  John Wright

A Super Bowl-sized closet

Esera Tuaolo, far left, Roy Simmons, second from left, and Dave Kopay, far right, are the only three retired NFL players ever to come out as gay. Brian Sims, second from right, is the only active NCAA player ever to come out. (Kevin Thomas/Dallas Voice)

Gay ex-players on how and when someone in NFL will finally come out

JOHN WRIGHT | Online Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

With a combined 106 players on the rosters of the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers, it’s all but certain that a few participants in Super Bowl XLV will be gay or bisexual.

Needless to say, though, when the two teams take the field at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington on Sunday, Feb. 6, we won’t know who those players are.

In the 91-year history of the National Football League, not a single active player has come out.

And only three former players have come out after retiring from the NFL — Dave Kopay in 1975, Roy Simmons in 1992, and Esera Tuaolo in 2002.

“What I find kind of disappointing is that sports seems to be the last bastion,” said Howard Bragman, the famous gay publicist who specializes in helping athletes and celebrities come out. “We even have seemingly won the military.

“I think the fans’ attitudes are changing,” said Bragman, whose clients have included Tuaolo and John Amaechi, the former professional basketball player who came out in 2007. “I think it’s all going to change, but we’re not there. We’ve scratched the surface of progress. We have an awful long way to go.”

Bragman said he believes one reason why no NFL player has come out is that it would put the person in physical danger on the field.

“I pity the guy who’s the first NFL player to come out,” Bragman said. “I think there are some vindictive people in the league.”

Although an out player’s teammates might rally around him, especially if he’s popular and has been around a while, he would run the risk of cheap shots from opposing teams, Bragman said.

“In the NFL you could shoot somebody and you’re probably not going to be hated as much as if you came out,” he said. “I think it’s really one of the last places that we have to fight homophobia and we have to fight a lot of myths and a lot of stereotypes, when these Neanderthals say things like, ‘Oh, I wouldn’t want to shower with one.’ It’s like, have we ever heard a story of a gay man attacking a straight man in the shower? I don’t think so. It’ just crazy.”

Still, Bragman and others say they see signs of progress.

Anti-gay comments from NFL players, once seemingly condoned, now draw discipline from NFL teams, and sometimes condemnation from others in the league.

A few straight NFL players, such as linebacker Scott Fujita of the Cleveland Browns (formerly of the New Orleans Saints), have spoken out publicly in support of LGBT equality.

But even so, Bragman said he believes the first NFL player to come out will do so involuntarily.

“I don’t think the first person who comes out in the NFL is going to come out pretty,” Bragman said. “I think the first person who comes out in the NFL is going to be outed, because we live in such a transparent world, and there’s going to be a picture that comes out or something like that that happens, as opposed to someone goes, ‘Hey, I’m gay.’”

Bragman noted there are no out players in pro baskeball, hockey or baseball, either, but he said he expects that to change soon.

“Within five years we’ll have two or three out men’s players in one of the major sports,” he predicted.

Others, meanwhile, believe the first openly gay NFL player will be someone who came out in high school or college.

Brian Sims, who came out while he was a team captain for the Division II football team at Bloomberg (Pa.) University in 2000, remains the only known active NCAA player to have done so.

“The first [NFL] player who comes out is going to be a Jackie Robinson,” Sims said, referring to the first black major league baseball player. “I think they’re going to be famous. I think they’re going to be a millionaire. But it will probably be somebody in college that was out and is just too good to ignore, which means probably one of the
skill positions.

“He’ll be too good not to draft, and a team like Miami, a team like New York … Somebody like that will pick him up proudly and say: ‘Yeah, you know what? We’ve got a built-in fan base just for this player alone.’” Sims said. “And it will be overwhelming how supportive people in the league will be.”

Sims, a defensive tackle who was universally accepted by his teammates when he came out, is now a Philadelphia-based attorney who specializes in LGBT civil rights.

Sims frequently speaks on the issue of homophobia in sports to athletes and students on college campuses.

He said he’s encouraged by the fact that there are out athletes in some sports on every campus he’s visited. And while none of them are football players, he says he knows gay football players at both the collegiate and pro levels.

“Some of them are living very closeted lives, very afraid of the repercussions,” Sims said. “Some of them are able to live relatively out lives in big cities …
“There are [NFL] players I know who are out, who have partners, and they’re able to be out with friends and with family. … They don’t sneak off once a month with their partner.”

But Sims, who believes a gay NFL player would represent a huge milestone for LGBT equality, said he doesn’t expect the players he knows to come out publicly anytime soon.

“I wish they would,” he said. “I’m one of the people that if you’re a closeted gay football player in this county, I’m one of the people that you shoot a message to. You would be amazed if you saw the amount of, ‘Hey, do you mind if I share something with you?’ kind of e-mails that I get.”

Tuaolo, 42, who played with five different NFL teams in nine years, said he knows firsthand why gay players in the NFL don’t come out.

It’s “the fear of working your ass off all your life to get where you’re at, and then just to know you could lose it all,” said Tuaolo, a defensive lineman who played in the Super Bowl for the Atlanta Falcons in 1999.

“I was afraid to type in the word ‘gay’ in college in a computer, because I thought it would come back to me,” Tuaolo said. “It’s the fear that you live in, it’s the anxiety that you live in, it’s the hurt that you live in when you’re in the closet. I didn’t know of all these organizations that are so supportive in the gay community. You kind of live on this island.

“When I was in the closet, all I saw was the people who didn’t support us,” Tuaolo added. “All I heard was the people who didn’t support us.”

Tuaolo, who now lives in Minneapolis, said he’s been amazed by the support he’s received since coming out.

He also said he believes coming out in the NFL would be much easier now than just 10 short years ago.

“The reason being, everybody knows a gay person,” said Tuaolo, a frequent speaker at both colleges and Fortune 500 companies. “Ninety-nine percent of people raise their hands when I ask, ‘Do you know a gay person?’

“If a gay athlete comes out while he’s still playing now, I think a lot of his teammates will have to answer to their families, because all of them know a gay person,” he said.
Tuaolo, who hid his partner from teammates while in the NFL, is the father of adopted twins — a boy and a girl — who are now 10.

“It’s great to take my son to the [Minnesota Vikings] game and everybody knows,” he said. “It’s an amazing feeling to get that support from people.”

But in a sign that homophobia is still pervasive in sports, Tuaolo acknowledged that he’s dating a semi-pro baseball player who isn’t out to his team.

“We’re out to our friends and our family, but not out to his teammates,” he said. “I know how it is and stuff. When he’s comfortable and he’s ready to tell his teammates, perfect.”

Kopay, 68, now retired from a post-NFL career in sales, said he’s convinced there are gay players on every NFL team.

But Kopay, who played in the NFL from 1964-72, came out in 1975 and wrote a best-selling biography in 1977, isn’t overly disappointed that no active NFL player has come out in the 36 years since he did so.

“How many hundreds of years did it take the black folks to get the civil rights law passed?” Kopay said. “Look at the progress we’ve made.”

A one-time Army Reservist, Kopay said he “cried like a baby” when “don’t ask don’t tell” was repealed late last year.

Also last year, Kopay attended the Super Bowl as a guest of Indianopolis Colts assistant coach Howard Mudd, his former teammate.

Kopay said he got a warm welcome from players and coaches during the trip, but it was also bittersweet knowing that anti-gay bias likely prevented him from following the same path as Mudd.

“Certainly I would have loved to have been a coach,” Kopay said. “It was painful for me, because it reminded me of my lack of doing what I always really wanted to do, but never got a chance to do.”

Kopay now lives in Seattle near his alma mater, the University of Washington, where he’s been named one of the 100 most influential graduates in the school’s first 100 years — largely because of his impact on gay rights (although he was also an All-American running back).

Kopay doesn’t travel or speak publicly as often as he used to, and he recalled one occasion last fall when he was invited to Arizona State University. Kopay said the ongoing gay youth suicide crisis weighed so heavily on his mind that he had to cancel the trip.

“It was so painful to think about, how there’s still been so little progress,” Kopay said. “I just got feeling so blue and angry that I couldn’t get my words out when I started reading and practicing delivering my speech. It brought me back to a place — it brought the anger in me.”

For Kopay, it’s difficult to ignore the fact that if LGBT youth had a professional athlete to look up to, they’d be less likely to give up hope. But he also said he’s comforted by the thousands of e-mails he’s received from people he’s inspired in other professions.

“It’s almost like I gave them permission to be who they were,” Kopay said. “It’s daunting to think about that, but it happened, and I’m really pleased that it happened. It’s incredible. That’s what gives me a sense of purpose in life, and a sense of happiness.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 4, 2011.

—  John Wright

Remembering a friend and helping others

Friends of woman who committed suicide holding 2nd benefit for Foundation for Prevention of Suicide


Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

HAPPIER TIMES  |  Shauna Greaham seemed like ‘the perfect person’ to her friends, but in reality, she struggled throughout her adult life with depression. This weekend, her friends are holding an event in her memory to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
HAPPIER TIMES | Shauna Greaham seemed like ‘the perfect person’ to her friends, but in reality, she struggled throughout her adult life with depression. This weekend, her friends are holding an event in her memory to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Kinita Albertson first met Shauna Greaham in high school, when the two played softball for opposing teams. Then the two women met again, this time as teammates, when they both played college softball for Texas Weslyan University.

Greaham was, Albertson said, “the perfect person, so amazing.”

But it only seemed that way.

Greaham committed suicide on Oct. 13, 2008.

Albertson said Greaham struggled with periodic bouts of depression throughout her adult life. Although Albertson said she never knew of her friend being bullied or harassed over being gay, Greaham wasn’t comfortable with her sexual orientation, either.

“When we were in college, she was embarrassed to be gay. She never talked about it or admitted it,” Albertson said. “Even after college, I would see her at the games [for the lesbian softball league], and she would say, ‘Oh, I’m just playing for the gay league because they needed more players.’”

Still, Greaham’s friends never expected her to take her own life.

“She had a girlfriend, but they were breaking up,” Albertson said, recalling the days leading up to her friend’s death. “We knew Shauna was upset and depressed, so we went over that weekend to spend some time with her. She seemed to be okay. Yes, she was upset, but by the time we left, she seemed okay. She was laughing and having a good time with everybody.

“And then, she was just gone,” Albertson continued. “Nobody really knows what happened. Something just snapped, and she was gone.”
And her friends were left with grief and questions.

“I had all the questions and nowhere to find answers. Even on the Internet, I had trouble finding any information. I had to dig. I was just grasping at straws as to why this happened,” Albertson said.

And then she found the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and finally found some of the answers she was seeking.

“I found AFSP online, and I called and asked for information. They really did help,” Albertson said.

One of the things she learned, Albertson said, was not to give in to some of the common misperceptions about suicide.

“A lot of times, when someone commits suicide, people say that they just gave up, that they quit trying. It’s a lot more complicated than that. There aren’t such easy answers,” Albertson said. “That’s one thing I don’t want people to think about Shauna. She was an amazing person, and I don’t want anybody to think of her as a quitter.”

AFSP is a nonprofit organization “exclusively dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide through research, education and advocacy, and to reaching out to people with mental disorders and those impacted by suicide,” according to its website.

The agency works to meet its goals by funding scientific research, offering education programs for mental health professionals, working to educate the public about mood disorders and suicide prevention, promoting policies and legislation aimed at preventing suicide and offering programs and resources for those who have lost loved ones to suicide and those who are themselves at risk for suicide.

The organization also has a specific LGBTQ Initiative and in 2007 helped sponsor, in conjunction with the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association and the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, a conference on LGBTQ suicide. AFSP has since funded several grants related to the issue of LGBTQ teen suicide and is currently working to complete a review of research and recommendations on LGBTQ suicide and suicide risk, according to the website.

The organization is also actively involved in studying and publicizing the link between anti-LGBT bullying and suicide.

But all those efforts take money. That’s why Albertson and her friends this weekend will hold their second annual “Strides for Shauna” benefit show and date auction.

Casey Cohea, who is helping organize the benefit, said eight people have already committed to being “auctioned off” for dates, and she expects others to join the list by the time the event starts Saturday night, Oct. 16.

The event will also feature a performance by Nikki McKibben who was the third place finisher in the debut season of American Idol.

McKibben isn’t one the dates who will be auctioned, Cohea noted, “she will just be there to sing. We told her what we were doing, and she wanted to help.”

The show and auction starts at 8:30 p.m. Saturday night at Best Friends Club, 2620 E. Lancaster Ave. in Fort Worth. And anyone interested in volunteering for the auction can contact Cohea at pinkertc15@yahoo.com or Albertson at Kinita.albertson@gmail.com.

But even those who can’t attend can still contribute by going online to OutOfTheDar-kness.com and donating to Team Strides for Shauna.

“I didn’t know Shauna. I’m doing this because people that I know and love knew and loved Shauna and this is important to them,” Cohea said.

“But I am also doing it because this is something that affects so many people in our community. We are losing so many people to suicide, and we have to do something to help.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 15, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas