2013: The Year In Lesbian/Bi Sports


With no World Cup and no Olympic Games, this was supposed to be a quiet year in sports. Nope. There was nothing quiet about the year in lesbian and bisexual sports. We saw players come out, marry teammates, achieve lifelong dreams, and pledge to end bullying. A new women’s professional soccer league was born. ESPN paid tribute to the anniversary of Title IX with an incredible documentary series about women in sports. Over the course of the year, individuals and organizations worked to end discrimination and homophobia in sports. This fight has become more important as we edge closer to the Olympic Games in Sochi which will occur under the cloud of Russia’s anti-LGBT laws.


The NWSL formed in a third attempt at a viable women’s professional soccer league in this country. The new league had fewer teams (many of which were placed in a city with a strong MLS franchise), salaries of national team players covered by their home countries, and more limited travel schedules. The result? The league was successful enough in its first year that it just announced that it will be adding a team in Houston for the upcoming season. Hopefully, this is a sign that the league will have more staying power than its predecessors.

Western NY Flash v Spirit

Last year, to honor the 40th anniversary of Title IX, ESPN announced that it would produce a documentary series Nine for IX, to tell nine stories of women in sports. This year we got to see the films in all their glory. They tackled issues such as female reporters gaining access to professional locker rooms and the way female athletes are marketed, teams, the 1999 USWNT, and individuals such as Sheryl Swoopes. These hour-long documentaries brought each topic to light with participant interviews, historical footage, and expert commentary. Hopefully, in the coming years ESPN will continue to include stories of women’s sports in its award winning documentary series.

As organizations sprung up all over to help LGBT, Br{ache the Silence formed specifically to help LGBTQ athletes in women’s college sports. The group sought to leverage the power of champions by using NCAA champion teams to send the message that all players are welcome regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. The first video in this “Tour of Champions” was of the NCAA Champion UConn women’s basketball team delivering this simple, but powerful, message.

We met a couple of new faces this year. Liz Carmouche became UFC’s first out fighter in 2012 and fought for the title in February. In July, Carmouche beat Jessica Andrade in the UFC first out lesbian vs. out lesbian bout.

Sami Grisafe sang her way into our hearts with her rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” before taking the field as the quarterback for Team USA at the World Championships. We also bid adieu to hockey player, Sarah Vaillancourt who retired from Team Canada this year. Vaillancourt came out during her freshman season at Harvard and said that if they didn’t like having a lesbian on the team, she’d be happy to take her (considerable) talents elsewhere.  By being open with her sexuality she was a trailblazer in a sport that lacks prominent out players.  She will be missed this winter in Sochi.

Diana Nyad first attempted to swim the 102 miles from Cuba to Florida in 1978. She failed to achieve her goal four times before this year when she completed the swim, without the aid of protective cages, in just under 53 hours. The 64-year-old became a symbol of perseverance, and her indomitable spirit moved many of us. When she emerged from the water, exhausted from more than two days in the water, she told the world three things: “One is, we should never ever give up. Two is, you’re never too old to chase your dreams. Three is, it looks like a solitary sport, but it’s a team.” She showed the world that impossible is nothing.

Diana Nyad swims from Cuba to Florida