Mike Brosseau- Through Their Eyes: Acceptance in Sports

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By Mike Brosseau

Throughout the past few years of my life, I’ve written about my experiences as a gay man, my experiences about coming out, my experiences with overcoming mental issues related to my sexuality. But I’ve never really given other people in my life a chance to talk, a change to give their perspective on the thing that I identify as the biggest thing in my life people should know about me. With this in mind, I contacted a group of people that I knew throughout my four years at Marist College. They each impacted my life brilliantly, with lessons of self-acceptance and loving who you are.

Tori Jarosz first came into my life sophomore year of college, as she was looking to transfer from her previous school.

Tom Githens was actually my boss, joining Marist Athletics as the Multimedia Coordinator my junior year prior to taking a job at Tennessee before my senior year.

Alyssa Gates is currently the Director of Student-Athlete Enhancement at Marist.

Adam Kemp is a former member of the Men’s Basketball program at Marist. Currently, he is playing overseas and despite this, continues to be a major influence on my life.

These people are all directly involved with sports either as an athlete or professionally. Without them, and countless others, I would not have my goal of working in sports one day. It is because of them that I feel acceptance in the world of sports, and want to continue to forge both the LGBT community and sports together. Here is what they had to say.

 

(Responses begin with initials of corresponding individual).

What was the first thing you thought once I came out to you?

TJ: Let’s be honest, you never officially “came out” to me. My boyfriend at the time happened to have be out with us on the night of my official visit and I remember you telling me that he was “hot.” Finding out that you were gay never affected our relationship because I knew that you were gay before we even became really close. You’ve always been completely; unapologetically you and I love that about you.

AG: Once you came out – I don’t think you actually had a “coming out” with me but once I found out you were gay, honestly, I was excited because I knew you would be someone to help me champion our cause!

AK: I was actually very happy that you had confided that information with me because from the beginning I had respected our friendship greatly and it made me happy to know you thought highly enough of me to handle such personal information. I was also happy for your sake because it was something I personally suspected and knew it would make you happier in the long run to become true to yourself and open about it.

 

What is your perspective on the current atmosphere for athletes and coaches who identify as LGBT, and what do you think the biggest challenge for them is?

TJ: I feel that the current atmosphere for athletes who identify as LGBT is dark. I think that the biggest challenge they face is having to hide who they truly are. For example, I remember hearing about how Baylor Head Women’s Basketball Coach, Kim Mulkey, requested that former player, Brittany Griner, hide her sexuality in fear that it would hurt recruiting and look bad for the program.

TG: I find the atmosphere to still be riddled with pseudo-acceptance of those who identify as LGBT. From my perspective, I think many who are uncomfortable and refrain from expressing themselves, do so to defend against being chastised for being “narrow-minded”, “unaccepting”, etc. I firmly believe there is an air of false acceptance in society, although this cannot be measured.

AK: I think currently acceptance for LBGT athletes and coaches is growing but it certainly is a slow process. I think the growing trend is that if an athlete or coach does come out as a member of the LBGT community full acceptance and support is the way to go, making it more likely for more athletes to become public in the future. However, the biggest issue still is that the culture of athletics is even “new-er” to accepting LBGT individuals than other aspects of society and therefore is further behind in many aspects. Far too common in athletics are deragatory phrases used to describe daily actions, not even when directed towards someone who actually is a member of the LBGT community. Due to this, “the locker room” and other areas surrounding athletics naturally become a sort of “no-fly-zone” for individuals who aren’t heterosexual, making it very difficult to become open about who they actually are.

 

Do you think that our relationship would be different had I not come out to you so soon?

TG: The timetable would not have changed our relationship and crazy interactions. Those were forged on our personalities, not our personal preferences.

AG: No, I don’t think it would be different. I knew you were gay so even if you hadn’t told me yourself, your passion and leadership made me aware of how important this was to you. And you were really interested in the sports component and that’s typically a battle I fought alone on our campus.

AK: I absolutely think that our relationship would be different if you had not trusted me with that information sooner. I think one of the largest factors in our friendship is that we have a level of trust with each other that many friendships or relationships don’t have. We can freely speak to each other about what is good and bad in our lives and I think a huge part of that is the fact that when you came out to me it proved that our friendship really meant something, and that is something I have always valued.

 

Lastly, do you think that LGBT people can not only play sports, but work in them as well?

TJ: I absolutely feel that people who identify at LGBT can work in sports. Unfortunately, however, I believe that many coaches will continue to keep their identities secret because they fear being discriminated against.

TG: If we hope to have any stability in this world, then LGBT must play and be active in sports. Consider a world without female involvement and “minority” involvement. It’s not a question of diverse backgrounds, as it is a question about expanding the pool of employment and involvement to include a greater mass of potentially creative and unique minds. Personal preferences, simply put, cannot alter physical abilities and mental capacity. Period.

AG: Yes! It’s definitely becoming easier for LGBT people to be accepted at Marist; definitely more so than 10 years ago. I know it’s assumed that sports are the most welcoming place for people to work but many sport related industries have a ways to go still. We just need more people to be open minded about the individual’s abilities to do their JOB not what their sexuality is. At the same time, leaders and hiring managers need to embrace the differences of everyone and recognize how those differences can be good for their organization.

AK: I think members of the LBGT community can absolutely work in and around sports and it “should” even be an easier transition than actually playing them. I strongly believe “locker room culture” is the single largest deterrent for individuals who currently would like to be open about their sexuality. As that barrier is removed and modified I believe more LBGT athletes will appear in athletics. Therefore, I feel as if members of the LBGT community certainly can work in sports and it will be a quicker process to bridge the gap overall.

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I’ve been outspoken my entire life, it is a part of my nature. But sometimes, the best way to get your message across is to let other people speak. That was my goal here, to let other people give their thoughts and opinions on a platform they do not normally get otherwise. Each of these people is incredibly important to me in a unique way, as a friend, mentor, etc. and I value their opinion and support. Without their support, encouragement, and confidence, I would not be as open about my sexuality and experiences as I am. Whether you are a current athlete, former athlete, current athletic administrator, or just someone who watches sport for entertainment, you can make an impact. Embrace the people around you, support them for who they are, and educate yourself on life experiences they may have.  Together, we can impact the world. Together, we can unite people with different backgrounds so that everyone feels support and acceptance in the world of sports. Together, we can create a culture where the need to explain his/her sexuality or gender identity shouldn’t matter.

Michael Brosseau is a former amateur athlete and two-year intern with Marist College Athletics. He graduated from Marist in May ’14, and currently works at Northeastern University in Boston, where he is attending graduate school for his Master’s in Sport Leadership. Contact him on Twitter (@mike_bross), Instagram: (@leahcim_Mike), or email (Michael.Brosseau1@gmail.com)