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Student-athletes share their perspective of being queer in their sport

By Carley Crain

Pride is intertwined with almost every part of campus – after all, Springfield’s mascot is referred to as “The Pride.” To some, this shows the importance of representation regarding the LGBTQIA+ community at Springfield College. Four students explained what Pride means to them as queer athletes in a panel titled, “Understanding the Queer Athlete Experience.”

Lily/Leo Gould, Grace Dzindolet, Dai-Quan Thomas, and A. Harper answered questions from Title IX coordinator Erin Leeper as well as shared their personal experiences for about one hour in front of a packed audience, many of them fellow Springfield College student-athletes.

Binary and gender were two of the main focal points of the presentation, as Gould and Harper especially spoke about the realities of being on a women’s sports team, but not identifying as a female. Each spoke about the pressures they face conforming to one binary.

“I am on the women’s soccer team here, which is great, and I love all of my teammates very much, it’s just kind of funky to occupy a space as a gender-queer athlete on a team meant for women,” said Harper. “I am on the women’s soccer team, but I am not a woman.”

“Gender is something I bring everywhere with me, even the little things, like going to the bathroom,” added Gould.

The panelists explained that for gender queer individuals, coming out is a continuous process and one that can be very emotionally draining. A step in the right direction was made, they noted, when Springfield added pronouns to rosters, so athletes like themselves can have their identities respected in commentary, game write-ups and more.

Gould also mentioned how systems of power, like bodies of legislation in sports including the NCAA, have controlled their decision to explore hormonal therapy.

“Reading all the NCAA guidelines for transgender people and specifically for those who want to go on hormones, it is very barring and putting you into a box,” said Gould. “What I have been saying to myself lately is that if I was not an NCAA athlete, I would explore for myself hormonal therapy.”

“I think it is important to recognize that just because someone is forced into a box, it does not mean they want to stay there,” Dzindolet said.

Toward the end of the presentation, panelists suggested a few ways that the Springfield community can show up for the queer community on campus: using gender-neutral language in practices, asking for pronouns, having allies of the LGBTQIA+ community step up and demand equality, creating a gender-neutral locker room that is offered as an option for students and more. While the panelists expressed the progress Springfield College has made for queer students over the years, each shared that there is room for improvement on campus and beyond.

Interested in attending more SEAT at the Table events like this one? Check out the schedule here:

Photo Courtesy Springfield College

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