Two-time Olympian Caitlin Cahow came out in an interview with Go! Athletes. Cahow, who is retired from competitive hockey, spoke to the organization, which focuses on empowering LGBTQ athletes and their allies, about women’s sports, whether the U.S. should boycott the Sochi Olympics, and why she didn’t come out earlier. Here are a few highlights from the interview.
Cahow, who is on the Board of Directors of the CWHL, spoke about the climate in women’s hockey.
“When we tried to do a video for the for You Can Play Project for the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, we had a difficult time getting gay athletes–as well as straight athletes–to participate. It was like pulling teeth with many people, whether or not it was articulated, because the assumption is that is there is “a guilty by association” philosophy with female athletes. You don’t want to be perceived as being a lesbian, and if you are a lesbian, you don’t want to fit into the stereotype. You don’t want to gratify that stereotype with a response. That’s something unique to women’s sports.”
It’s sad that a climate I certainly experienced as a player is still just as prevalent. We’re much more used to seeing the men’s sports lag behind women but Cahow notes, that the NHL had no trouble finding allies to speak up for the “You Can Play” project. In terms of acceptance, this is one place where women could stand to learn something from the men.
When asked why she didn’t come out sooner, she says it’s simply because no one ever asked. I interviewed Cahow in 2012 and am one of those interviewers who simply didn’t ask. I thought this point in her interview with Go! Athletes was interesting when contrasted with her take on how the media focused too much on Brittney Griner’s sexuality and gender identity when after she came out. Cahow said:
“I think it’s ridiculous that when Brittney Griner gets drafted first in the WNBA draft, a large portion of the articles that come out are about her sexuality and her gender expression. You’ve got to be kidding me. She has to be one of the greatest American athletes of all time. It’s just ridiculous. I do believe it is important for athletes to feel like they can express themselves however they want. If you want to be a spokesperson for a certain identity, then more power to you – but you should feel free to ignore inane questions that have nothing to do with your profession.”
The question, again, becomes one of when should an interviewer ask an athlete about his or her sexuality. We’ve seen a number of female athletes recently cite the fact that they were never asked as the reason they didn’t come out earlier. She had an interesting point that the real shift will come when LGBT athletes feel comfortable dropping casual references to their girlfriend/boyfriend/partner/wife/husband into questions the way straight athletes do. She argues that when gay athletes feel more comfortable, their answers to questions about the support they receive or how they are able to push themselves hard will mirror their straight counterparts. I certainly look forward to the day when that is the norm.
What are your thoughts on Cahow’s coming out and the rest of her interview?