Special to Mustang News
Students, faculty and San Luis Obispo community members filled the chairs, the floors and spilled into the halls yesterday to listen to panelists speak at the “Out in Athletics” forum, which addressed the struggles of coming out on campus in an athletic setting.
The forum featured Susan Rankin, who conducted Cal Poly’s Campus Climate Survey and is a senior research associate with the Center for the Study of Higher Education at Pennsylvania State University.
“I’ve always been out,” Rankin said. “I came out of the womb gay — like, ‘ahhh.’”
She coached softball at Pennsylvania State, and despite victory after victory, faced prejudice in her work environment and was forced to quit coaching. Now, she is an advocate for the queer-transgender spectrum, a term she prefers over LGBT.
LGBT is a white term that segregates the spectrum and doesn’t fully encompass the complexity of the queer-transgender environment, Rankin said. After years of facing discrimination herself and watching her gay players go through the same treatment, she decided to stand up.
“I’m tired of hearing stories of kids going off bridges,” she said, referring to the large number of suicides resulting from unbearable bullying. “If he came out to you and said he was gay, would you be supportive?
The panelists included Bailey Brown — talent manager for Left Lane Sports and former athletic director at Mission Prep High School — kinesiology professor Camille O’Bryant and assistant football coach Matt Crivello.
The panelists shared their experiences with the queer-transgender environment in athletics.
As an openly gay woman, Brown was the victim of hate crimes during her time as athletic director at Mission Prep High School, she said, and recalling the events was difficult for her at the panel.
“You have to stand up when you hear things that feel uncomfortable, that feel icky,” she said.
O’Bryant, an African American woman who is also a victim of racism, struggled coming out, she said. Last night’s panel was the largest group of people she had ever come out to.
Discriminatory behavior is more than hate crimes, O’Bryant said. It’s micro-aggressions — such as “That’s so gay” — that accumulate and make it difficult for members of the queer-transgender community.
“We have to recognize that there are ways that we can stand together,” she said. “And we have to keep recommiting to those habits like we have to recommit to brushing our teeth every morning.”
The panelists were surprised by the overwhelming support shown at the forum, they said, and couldn’t help but smiling when a man interrupted the beginning of the discussion and said, “Sorry to interrupt, but we found a room that could fit everyone.”
However, they were unable to change rooms because a camera had already been set up to livestream the discussion, and students left with their heads hanging low.
“I couldn’t have imagined us having this kind of panel discussion when I first started working here,” O’Bryant said.
Crivello, the only man and straight person on the panel, said when his football players came out, it made them a better team.
“The forum was fabulous,” Rankin said after the discussion. “The people were great, and having a football coach here is huge.”