Pat Griffin, director of It Takes a Team!, recently interviewed out USA softball player Lauren Lappin for the Women’s Sports Foundation. In the interview, Lappin talks about her experiences as an openly gay athlete in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, about coming out to her teammates and family, and about the growing acceptance of lesbians in bisexuals in the world of elite sports.
On coming out to her family:
I had my own inner struggle coming to terms with being gay, and I was lucky to have had the support of my family during such a difficult time personally. I was most worried about coming out to my parents, especially my father. He is a high school baseball and football coach and is fairly well-known in our community. He started coaching me when I was 11. We have a very close bond because of sports, and I look up to him so much. It was hard to come out to him because I wasn’t sure how he would take it and I didn’t want to disappoint him.
On coming out to her teammates:
With my teammates it was a process. I had teammates I was close to and I could lean on who I felt comfortable talking to. I came out to them first, and as I grew into it and had more self-acceptance, I came out to individuals in casual conversations. I didn’t want to make it a bigger deal than it was. I didn’t want to put people on the spot, but I wanted to give them a chance to ask questions if they had them. I started telling people and talking about who I was dating. Some teammates were great, some were surprised. Some were like “Oh, OK. No big deal.” I started with people I was close to and went from there. My teammates were very accepting. They have really supported and empowered me to accept myself and not hide who I am.
On how being openly gay effected her athletic performance:
Once I was comfortable with my sexuality, I came out to friends and teammates at Stanford that I was dating a woman. Once I came out, I was so much more comfortable within my relationships with my family and friends. Because I felt like I could finally be myself in every aspect of my life, I started to train better and play better … I was a bubble player before, never having a solidified spot on the team. Coming into my own and accepting my sexuality allowed me to focus on becoming a better athlete and person and build stronger relationships with my teammates. Essentially, the experience of coming out has helped enable me to grow as a player and to fulfill my dreams this year.
Advice for other gay or lesbian athletes:
The most important thing is be proud of who you are. It’s not wrong to be gay, even though mainstream society tells us so. It’s who you are. I love that I’ve figured out who I am. I love being a gay athlete.
The interview is heartfelt and inspiring. You can read it in its entirety on the Women’s Sports Foundation’s site. Lappin’s candid answers about her own personal journey toward being an out athlete, and the acceptance lesbians are receiving in the world of elite softball today, are really encouraging — especially if you, like me, were a gay athlete on a college sports team where homophobia was still surprisingly prevalent.
Lappin’s interview gives me hope for the future of lesbian and bisexual athletes from the little leagues to the pros.