Lauren Lappin was at the pinnacle of her lifelong passion sport after she adapted to any role in the softball field. Peace that fueled Lappin’s success came from accepting the role she struggled to embrace. In an interview, Lappin highlighted her understanding as an openly gay athlete during the 2008 Beijing Olympics as well as her experiences of coming out to her teammates and family, and the increasing acceptance of lesbians and bisexuals in elite sports. She indicated that being gay remains a source of ostracism and a reason for social stigma in many areas. Also, Lappin indicated that playing softball made her an easy target for profiling in those prejudices, regardless of whether utterances were merely meant to be comic hyperbole, or some sinister things. Hence, she shows that softball can paradoxically be a fertile ground for promoting intolerance among individuals seeking to assert a place in the supposed normality of heterosexuality. Although Lappin was not raised to understand that homosexuality was wrong, the implicit impact of silence on the issue reinforced the sense that it was abnormal or precisely, less than normal. Lappin never heard many parents talking about the issue, although teammates made comments that she believes influenced her to prolong her ability to accept her sexuality and be publicly comfortable with it. Hearing people talk negatively about lesbians was something she pretty experienced throughout her high school and college education. As difficult as it was to accept what she felt, she could not fathom explaining it to her father or mother. Lappin never disclosed being a lesbian publicly until she graduated from Stanford; however, she acknowledges the level of comfort she enjoyed when confiding in teammates as well as the reaction she got that helped ease her anxiety (Hays, 2010).
Although Lappin had her own inner struggle when accepting her sexuality, she indicates that she was lucky she had support of her family in that difficult time. She was worried about coming out to her parents, particularly her father. Her father was a coach for both baseball and football in high school, and was fairly eminent in the community. It was difficult coming out to him since she was not sure how her father would take it and she did not want to frustrate him (Hogan, 2009). Other female athletes report an absence of personal support, with one athlete stating that she perceived zero support from the athletic department and staff (Fynes, 2014. p.50)..
Discussion of role models and what Krane’s article say about the importance of role models
Lappin indicates that being proud of one’s sexuality is the most important thing. She goes ahead to show that it is right to be gay, although mainstream society implies otherwise. Lappin highlights that she loves the fact that she managed to figure out who she is and does not fear being a lesbian athlete (Hogan, 2009).
Krane’s article discussed role models. As per the social identity model described in Krane’s work, people attach emotional significance and value to their social- and self-categorizations; hence, social identity affects self-esteem. Typically, people belonging to high-status social groups will have a positive self-perception because of their membership in the valued group, while those belonging to marginalized groups will not have a very positive self-image on account of their membership in a devalued group. Nevertheless, one theory, which looked into lesbians’ socialization in the sporting domain within a homonegative and heterosexist context, indicates that a number of people belonging to devalued groups don’t form negative self-perspectives; therefore, the result may be either negative or positive self-perspectives. She maintained that the personal internalized responses of lesbians to homonegativism resulted in negative manifestations in the form of lesbians concealing their sexual identity; not raising their voices against discrimination directed at lesbians; not feeling comfortable around open lesbians, depression; inferiority complex; low athletic performance; self-defeating activities; reduced self-esteem; substance abuse; anger, shame and self-loathing; loneliness; over- or under- achievement; and distrust. Yet, she further claimed that lesbians might adopt a positive homosexual identity from personal responses to homonegativism. Formation of positive identity among lesbian athletes can ensue from robust societal support, from lesbian as well as heterosexual communities, and the presence of positive, visible role models. Therefore, a feeling of pride in being part of a particular group (such as, lesbian athletes), as well as a positive homosexual community offered support; also, role models reinforced the marginalized cluster’s collective esteem. Bella, for instance, similarly stated that, at first, she did not believe she could honestly express herself to team members or anyone else. She further states how vital team support is to lesbian athletes: “I wish I had a role model … I wanted to be out and I wanted to be proud of myself and I wanted to … try to be that person for someone else” (Shaw, 2010, p.26). Further research is required to look into chances of formation of a support organization for lesbian athletes, as it can be a great opportunity for them to express their emotions, validate and normalize their qualms, and bond with others experiencing similar processes; the group will be able to provide a supportive atmosphere for lesbian sportswomen, by increasing visibility of heterosexual allies and homosexual role models (Krane, 2001; Krane, 1996)
Coming out process compared to Krane’s discussion
On coming out to her teammates, Lappin indicates that it was a process. She had teammates who were close to her and she could lean on those she felt comfortable sharing with. She first came out to them, and as she increasingly accepted her sexuality and acquired more self-acceptance, she came out to people during casual conversations. She did not desire to magnify the matter than it was. Lappin never wanted to intimidate people, but rather she only wanted to give them an opportunity to ask questions in case they had some. She began telling individuals and talking about the person she was dating. A considerable number of teammates were outstanding, but some were surprised. She began with people she was close to and progressed from there and she acknowledges that her teammates were very accepting. Her teammates were really supportive and empowered her to come to terms with herself and not hide her sexuality (Hogan, 2009).
The choice of coming out normally entails loads of deliberation, and resulting outcomes and reactions need to be taken into account. Numerous factors, such as religion, race, child-parent relationship quality, and family cohesion, may contribute to the decision of coming out, in addition to family’s reaction to this decision. A person may let the world know of his/her sexual orientation by both non-verbal and verbal means, which are equally effective in communicating their homosexuality and promoting tolerant, empathetic environments. Lappin’s perspectives revealed the notion increased exposure of society to LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) individuals, leading to increased normalization of their identity. She felt that professional female athletes’ declaration of lesbian orientation contributes significantly to acceptance and exposure, and that, as it is, assumed that many lesbians already exist in the sporting domain; women athletes are accustomed to it. Many of them gave an account of how their coming out was with regard to gaining self-acceptance (Fynes, 2014). Immense emphasis is given to positive homosexual identity and means to attaining it in the lesbian identity formation framework of Krane (1996).
Krane (1996) suggests that lesbians in sports tend to have negative reactions to homonegativism, mainly because of socialization and participation within heterosexist and homonegative sport settings. An essential aspect of the model is the conviction that participation within hostile sports settings compounds the homonegativism evidence in the large society. Therefore, homonegative sport experiences intensify the negative effects of homonegativism that lesbians in sports experience, compared to experiences of non-sport lesbians. Nevertheless, exposure to affirmative role models as well as acknowledging social support helps propel lesbians in sports toward a positive self-identity (Krane, 1996).
Discussed difficulties of LGBT athlete
Lappin indicates that it is intimidating thinking of where she would be as an individual and the way her life would turn out to be. Although she is happy livings her truth daily, she was reluctant coming out, fearing that it would hurt her opportunity of being a member of the Olympic team, or even make sponsors wary of endorsing her to promote their softball gear. In addition, she indicates that there is no doubt that her coaching career would have been easier, if she did not publicly share her sexuality. She indicates that at least now a few doors may not open as wide as they would otherwise open. Lappin’s fame in the sport acts as a form of security measure for her. Nevertheless, for other athletes thinking about coming out, she points out that there is a choice involved that entails two parts of the athletes i.e. personal peace and professional security (Hays, 2010).
Numerous challenges faced by lesbian players are underscored by Fynes (2014). A few mistaken beliefs of society about lesbians are that they prefer certain sports over others; that one can turn homosexual by playing sports; that athletes who are lesbians are a bad influence to children; and that lesbian coaches and players can prey on younger female athletes who are heterosexual (Griffin, 1998). Other misconceptions are as follows: lesbian sportswomen rally against their heterosexual counterparts; and lesbian sportswomen have an advantage over straight women players because the former are “masculine.” Krane (1996) refutes these wrong beliefs by stating that, “Lesbians in sport are not a problem; how lesbians are treated and discrimination toward all female athletes are problems” (p. 237). Further, media concentrates on women athletes perceived as “heterosexual” and “feminine” by relaying their personal life to audiences; they highlight specific sportswomen’s sex appeal for drawing sponsors’ and men’s attention (Griffin, 1998). People will endeavor to form or seek teams comprising only of heterosexual players, or having a highly heterosexual image. Moreover, there is an abundance of prejudice against, and persecution of lesbian coaches and sportswomen; the latter are subject to verbal persecution and sports departments prefer hiring male coaches to avoid the issue of society considering female coaches hired by them as lesbians (Griffin, 1998). Lastly, some female coaches and players will do their utmost to avoid association with lesbian coaches and counterparts, even if they recognize their presence (Fynes, 2014).
Fynes, J. (2014). “It Starts with Having a Conversation”: Lesbian Student-Athletes’ Experience of U.S. NCAA Division I Sport.
Griffin, P. G. (1998). Strong women, deep closets: Lesbians and homophobia in sport. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Hays, G. (2010). Stereotypes haunt softball. Retrieved November 7, 2015, from http://sports.espn.go.com/ncaa/columns/story?columnist=hays_graham&id=5671978
Hogan, H. (2009, April 9). Olympian softball player Lauren Lappin talks about being out in professional sports – After Ellen. Retrieved November 7, 2015, from http://www.afterellen.com/general-news/48425-olympian-softball-player-lauren-lappin-talks-about-being-out-in-professional-sports
Krane, V. (1996). Lesbians in sport: Toward acknowledgment, understanding, and theory. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 18, 237-246.
Krane, V. (2001). We can be athletic and feminine, but do we want to? Challenging hegemonic femininity in women’s sport. Quest, 53, 115-133.
Shaw, M. E. (2010). Heterosexism and Homonegativism in Sport: A Phenomenological Investigation of Lesbian Athletes.