By Joe Arruda
Though most of the SEAT at the Table workshops are headlined by conversations about racial justice, the “Fostering Inclusion of LGBTQ Individuals in Athletics” session on Thursday night took a slightly different angle. A panel of four, consisting of Elizabeth Morgan, Michelle Lee Scecina, Adaeze Alaeze and Nina Winsick, highlighted the challenges facing individuals in the LGBTQ+ community, another marginalized group.
Morgan, an Associate Professor of Psychology, kicked off the event by providing several terms associated with the topic and asked participants to identify some that they might not be totally sure about. She used this as a way to gauge where people were in terms of understanding the concepts.
Then, the workshop got interactive.
Utilizing both the chat function, as well as breakout rooms, participants were forced to think. Divided into a breakout room of four, the 70+ individuals on the Zoom meeting were asked to identify inequalities that they have seen or could imagine seeing members of the LGBTQ+ community facing in athletics perpetrated by teammates, coaches, or policies.
Upon returning to the main group, participants typed their responses in the chat function which were then repeated out loud by a panelist.
Responses ranged from “jokes” and “gay slurs” to “teammates excluding from conversations,” “coaches not giving equal playing time,” “not reprimanding teammates for using slurs,” “not allowing transgender students into locker rooms,” and strict uniform codes.
As Scecina, the Assistant Athletic Director at Springfield College, read out responses, she made sure to emphasize that coaches are not immune to being discriminated themselves for their identity.
“I think these are really important to know so that we can support our student-athletes, whether it’s here at Springfield College or outside of this community,” Scecina said. “They are things that really affect people and their mental health. I think you’ve probably all heard about the mental health of the LGBTQ community in general and how important it is that they’re supported and they have a group that they can be around that supports each other as well.”
The panelists made sure that the session did not conclude without discussing actions that would improve the experiences of LGBTQ+ athletes.
“Just allow people to be who they are and express themselves freely. It’s just really important that you create that safe space. We’re going to talk about how we can continue to create a safe space for our LGBTQ community peers on campus and world wide,” said Alaeze, the Coordinator of Student-Athlete Leadership Development.
Breakout rooms were summoned once again for groups to engage in conversation about ways they could support LGBTQ people and actively fight prejudice.
Winsick, a graduate student in the Athletic Counseling program, read ideas that were shared in the chat that included: “listening to people’s stories,” “googling words that you hear but you don’t know,” “following resource pages on social media,” “not assuming,” “acknowledging your own biases” and “using gender neutral language.”
Winsick encouraged participants to attend meetings and events put on by LGBTQ groups on campus as a way to further educate themselves on lived experiences that they are likely unaware of.
Participants were able to reflect on their own knowledge and experience, allowing them to identify ways they could apply the ideas expressed by their peers to their own lives and to identify ways that they could use the platform they have to initiate action and change.
Graphic Courtesy of Jack Margaros