Addendum: Extra Materials & Methodology For Study on Male LGBT Athletes at Haverford

 

Study conducted by Damon Motz-Story ‘16

 

STUDENT-ATHLETE ADVISORY COMMITTEE STATEMENT ON DIVERSITY

"Following the Honor Code’s ideals of trust, concern and respect, we as student-athletes will create a community invested in diversity across differences of race, sexual orientation, gender and religion. We will maintain an open and safe environment by making Haverford community members and beyond feel respected on and off the field."

 

DATA COLLECTION:

I interviewed 15 people who are members of a men’s varsity team at Haverford College and asked about their team dynamics and demographics. I interviewed at least one person from each all-male varsity team,[1] and I sought out students from all four class years with a diverse range of identities including race, religion, and nationality. Out of the fifteen interviewees, most responded with “no” to the question “Are there any openly gay/bi/queer members of your team at Haverford (that you know of)?” It became clear over the course of conversation that those who responded “yes” were referring to the same individual, although one respondent said that there were multiple openly queer students while others from the same team said that there was only one. For the sake of trying to appeal to the only consistency I found among the data, I have erred on the side of concluding that out of 200 male varsity athletes listed on the 2015-2016 rosters on www.haverfordathletics.com, only one player on our men’s varsity teams openly identifies as gay, bisexual, or queer. Based on my own experiences in queer spaces at Haverford, I estimate that at least 8% of Haverford students overall identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer.

 

The following excerpts of questions and answers were taken directly from transcripts of interviews with the 15 Haverford men’s varsity athletes I talked with. A few interviewees did not wish to be quoted for the article. Quoted segments have been randomized and are not always pulled from all interviewees. Each collection of quotes and paraphrased responses comes from a variety of different teams.

 

Would your team be welcoming of openly gay or queer members, and why or why not?

 

         “There’d be a moment of ‘wow how did I not know?’ And there might be a little discomfort at the start [especially in the locker room]...the first few days might be [startling] but ultimately it wouldn’t change anything...like ‘you like guys? That’s your thing’...people are gonna do what they wanna do and as long as they’re not hurting anyone [it’s fine].”

 

“A change would have to happen and then people would get used to it. Over time I think things would be okay.”

 

         Things have been very accepting and supportive of the one openly queer member of the team (paraphrased).

 

         Team talks a lot about women and their attractiveness (paraphrased). “People would fall over themselves to be accommodating but [it would be treated as unusual].”

 

         “[In the past, many team members were] at least slightly homophobic, certainly using the terms ‘gay,’ ‘soft’ (frequently synonymously with ‘gay’) was something I saw a lot...I didn’t speak up [but] certainly didn’t support it...I don’t feel that a student [back then] who was openly queer would have done well or been comfortable on the team, there would have been a lot of discomfort on both sides...I definitely see a change in the thought process when people say things now.”

 

         “I think the team has the intention of being welcoming, but not the commitment to inform themselves on what words or actions could be offensive or uncomfortable for gay or queer members...I tend to notice...blatantly heteronormative behaviors coming from the team, and I think that it reflects that this need for heteronormativity and “bro-iness” is almost fundamental to the team identity as it has been at Haverford, which really worries me...What bothers me most is that I do not think that my captains, or the whole team, would be open to actually devoting a significant amount of time to changing the team’s culture to being more accepting if that means changing any of its fundamental traditions or behaviors.”

 

         “Sport tends to be very masculine or bro-y...generally people kind of masking any sort of emotion considered not-manly and openly identifying as LGBT kind of falls under that umbrella...I also think there’s definitely a language issue where sports players, fans, and coaches will use homophobic or hurtful language quite openly and not see that as a problem and not really conceiving that potentially one of their players [could be affected by that]. I think that’s certainly a problem...My coach [at Haverford] is certainly well-intentioned but not the best...he’s certainly used some derogatory language about LGBT people and minorities...quite openly, I don’t think he thinks anything of it...nobody feels that they have the authority [to do something about it]...I’m not really sure how to fix that to be honest.”

 

How often does your team, in casual contexts, talk/joke about sexuality?

 

         “People...tend to assume that everyone is heterosexual, and thus feel comfortable being jokingly flirty or touchy with many of the other members of the team all of the time.”

 

         Sometimes the team jokes about being gay but not in a super aggressive way (paraphrased).

 

         “Last year, almost every day...I think people think that they can separate those words from what they actually mean...I don’t think they’re trying to be offensive...it’s just an ignorance thing. I’m not saying it’s alright but they’re not thinking it’s a direct attack...Sometimes there can be a disconnect...Last year maybe once a week...but I think it’s starting to become better.”

 

         Sexuality is talked about in a more academic context rather than in a joking manner (paraphrased).

 

“People will still say ‘he’s gay’ or ‘that’s gay’...I’ve consciously tried so hard to step away from it cause I know it’s a bad image, I really try not to say that anymore...I know I may have drunkenly said it once or twice last year...but now I don’t say it at all...it’s so hurtful and not right.” Things have gotten much better this year and more people are calling each other out for that kind of language (paraphrased).

 

Queerness comes up in a philosophical context and other academic-like conversations. Not really joked about (paraphrased).

 

In your opinion, are there any benefits to having gay/bi/queer members of an athletic team, and if so, what are they? Or, does sexual orientation make no difference to the success of your team?

 

         “I don’t think your sexuality affects how you play. It doesn’t make a difference...I don’t think it should have an affect. ”

 

         “I would say that one benefit to having gay/bi/queer members of an athletic team could be that it would give people a better community of support within the team, just as having someone of your own race or gender would also do. I do not think that people’s sexuality makes a difference in terms of athletic performance, in the sense that I would be happy to [play alongside] someone of any sexual identity.”

 

         “We treat everyone to the value of their character, we wouldn’t treat anyone differently because of something about them.”

 

         “I guess it brings new diversity to the team...personally since coming out, I’ve felt more connected to the team.”

 

         “It would definitely make a difference...I don’t think most kids have grown up having an openly gay teammate for whatever reason, and I’m sure in many cases it’s because people don’t feel comfortable...I think what would be most beneficial would be to have [PAF-like sessions] for teams.”

 

In your opinion, how well are gay/bi/queer students regarded at Haverford College generally?

 

         “I think as a whole it’s an accepting place...I still know it’s not an easy place to be a queer student...it’s already a small school and it’s an even smaller queer population...it’s not ideal.”

 

         Overall yes, but “everyone knows everyone, so maybe somebody would be less inclined [to come out]” because of the lack of anonymity (partially paraphrased).

 

“It feels as if people are accepting, as long as they don’t have to know about it, although I could be misperceiving it.”

 

Additional Comments:

 

“[The reason for the lack of queer male athletes] could start with the recruitment process and the coach’s eye for players…[prospective students come] to campus and [mingle] with the team talking to the coach as much as possible and I think...a lot of the time the coach is frequently talking to players about how they like the [prospective] student...and sometimes straight up asking us how cool the person is...and that’s just another step of [the] recruiting process for my coach...through the players’ and through the coach’s view of the prospective player’s personality and how they carry themselves and interact with the team is a really big indicator of how they’ll fit with the team...coach makes [recruiting] decisions slightly based on that.”

 

“Everyone who’s coming to college [varsity athletics] needs to be playing in high school, get recognition from really good coaches in college and that’s really where the recruiting process starts so if you look at the college teams, all these players were really talented in high school and if someone for whatever reason wasn’t...able...to join their high school team or didn’t feel comfortable on it...what chance do they have to join a college team. [Walking on] is really not possible at Haverford [for my sport].”

 

If you could change one thing about male athletic culture, what would it be? This could be unrelated to issues of sexuality (answers are mostly paraphrased for brevity).

 

Insularity.

 

Less trash talking, more respectful language and positivity, sportsmanship.

 

Reckless drunken behavior that can be destructive to others and excluding to teammates who don’t want to drink.

 

The machismo. Anything that shuts people out or shuts out a particular way of thinking. Any requirement for people to have a certain amount of masculinity to be fully accepted on a team.

 

Greater supportiveness when athletes make mistakes rather than excessive anger about a bad moment on the field/court. More emphasis on positivity and learning produces better results in my experience. “Fear is some of the worst [expletive] that happens in sports...you should be excited by the challenge but never fearful of a team.”

 

 

 

 



[1] I chose not to include Cricket because as a coed team, it does not represent an exclusively male space with assumptions that heterosexuality means being attracted to women.