Campus News Editor
Many people do not even know his name. The fourth-leading scorer on the UMass basketball team this past year, Gordon was not always the talk of the town.
However, on Wednesday, April 9, that all changed. On that day, Gordon sat down with ESPN and on national television became the first openly gay collegiate basketball player.
Supported by his friends, family and team, Gordon took the national stage and shined.
“Right now I’m happy. I’m free just to live my life,” stated Gordon in an interview with the Associated Press last week.
Although support from his inner circle pushed Gordon to come out, his confidence in his decision might stem from his UMass community. With the Westboro Baptist Church planning a rally on campus, the UMass community is coming together to support their player with the mindset to stop the spread of homophobia and hate towards LGBT people.
“UMass is 100 percent behind [Gordon].
They are proud to support their student and their athlete,” said Roberta Harro, a professor for the School of Human Services at Springfield. “I would love for that to become truer here at Springfield College.”
The Gay-Straight Alliance group at Springfield College is working toward that goal. On Thursday, April 17, there will be a panel held in Marsh Memorial at 7 p.m. with a focus on transgender athletes.
With four panelists present, the discussion will help bring to light perspectives that most of society fails to see – transgender athletes in sports.
A group of people often skimmed over in the LGBT talks, transgender is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity, gender expression or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth.
Focusing on their stories and how they have become the people they are today, the panelists will help students, faculty and community members increase their knowledge about transgender athletes.
With athletes like Derrick Gordon and Michael Sam, a Missouri football player who came out in February, the LGBT community has made a push into athletics, but it is nowhere near where they want to be or ought to be.
“I think there is a preponderance of homophobia and gender discrimination among athletes,” commented Harro. “Our goal is to change the climate so that people really feel comfortable with who they are.”
If change is the goal, then the Springfield GSA group is headed in the right direction. Aside from the panel, the GSA also offers Safe Zone workshops to help educate faculty and student groups around campus.
Harro believes that the Safe Zone workshops not only increase awareness of LGBT problems, but also help individuals understand what it is like to be in a position of discrimination or hate.
In light of last semester’s Cheney incident, where members of the Springfield College community harassed transgender guests, the GSA decided the campus needs more knowledge and education about LGBT issues.
With the Safe Zone workshops and Thursday night’s panel, Harro feels confident that Springfield is headed in the right direction.
“Our hope is to build a sense of community that welcomes people, whoever they are,” continued Harro. “We want people to be who they really are without fear of reprisal.”
As a college filled with leaders, Springfield is the perfect place to welcome and accept students for who they are. With the incident in Cheney in the past, it is time to start anew.
It’s time to start understanding and accepting others for who they are. It’s time for change.