Ahead of its article on Brittney Griner, ESPN released part of Kate Fagan’s interview with the superstar in which Griner talked about being asked to keep her sexuality a secret while at Baylor University. Now ESPN: The Magazine has published the full article which talks a little about Griner as a once in a lifetime player, but focuses heavily on how Griner’s sexuality, the bullying she received because of it, and how her time at Baylor has shaped her.
While the coaches and other players at Baylor knew that Griner was gay, they asked her to keep her sexuality a secret from the press because they thought it would be bad for the school’s recruiting efforts. But upon being selected as the top pick in the WNBA draft, Griner came out and is thrilled with the decision.
“I am 100-percent happy,” she says. “When I was at Baylor, I wasn’t fully happy because I couldn’t be all the way out. It feels so good saying it: I am a strong, black lesbian woman. Every single time I say it, I feel so much better.”
According to Griner’s father, despite Baylor’s expressions of pride and support for Griner, Griner “hasn’t heard from [Coach Kim] Mulkey since Baylor’s shocking loss to Louisville in this year’s NCAA tournament. “It’s about dollar signs,” [Griner’s father Ray] says. “There’s nothing in it for Kim anymore, so she’s done with Brittney.” Perhaps these two won’t be exchanging Christmas cards any time soon.
Being different wasn’t always easy for Griner who was bullied extensively in school (you should check her Twitter feed or the comments to any article about her online if you want to see some truly vile comments). “Every incident [in school] was a variation on a theme. A girl would come up and grope at her flat chest, calling to the other kids: “See? Nothing!” Then the instigator would turn to Brittney and say those familiar words: “What are you?” Humiliation would morph into anger, and Griner would push the girl.
Despite the bullying she endured as a kid, Griner eventually sorted out where she fit both in terms of her sexuality and gender expression as appears to be a genuinely happy person now, content with who she is and looking for ways to help young people who may be dealing with the same issues. She uses the comments from haters to fuel her game and her desire to shut them up with her play, her advocacy, and her monster dunks.
Brittney with out photographer Cass Bird
As someone who also heard the charming questions from middle schoolers about my gender and sexuality (“Are you a Mounds or an Almond Joy? Almond Joy has nuts, Mounds don’t.”) I can’t help rooting for this young woman who shows incredible poise in spite of the truly vile comments thrown her way. She’s found her own style of dress, her own style of play, and her own confident voice. “So many people exist between the two ends of the spectrum, but no one wants to admit it. If you’re in between, they say something is wrong with you. ‘We can fix you.’ Well, I don’t need fixing.”
It’s a pretty simple message, but hearing it from someone as badass and as self-assured as Griner can go a long way toward giving hope to other kids struggling with being somewhere in the middle.