LGBT community, athletics find common ground

Morgan Kelly

The Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender community and athletic community have not always gone hand in hand, but with prominent sports figures coming out publicly, it opens the door for communication between the two.

Brad Freihoefer, director of the Lebian Gay Bisexual Transgender Student Services center, said the athletic department at Iowa State has worked to have the conversations that make being an LGBT athlete a great experience.

“We go over to the offices for panels for student athlete courses and connections,” Freihofer said. “We go over and present as a part of many different offices in the dean of students office, which help all students, including student athletes. It’s cool that they’re excited to have us there.” 

He said the athletics department even helped sponsor the Cyd Zeigler lecture held a few weeks ago.

The two offices often partner to hold safe zone training programs.

Safe zone workshops are defined as workshops meant to educate individuals on LGBTQ issues and help members of college communities become better allies to LGBTQ students and more aware of gender and sexuality issues, according to the Safe Zone Project.

“We’ve partnered together in other ways to do safe zone training, we are really excited about having a lot of their staff safe zone trained,” Freihoefer said. “It’s a wonderful and amazing accomplishment for Iowa State, especially in the context of the Big 12.”

Some of the safe zone training sessions are even organized by the athletic department.

“We have had multiple sessions, the two most recent were in April 2014 and Sept. 2014. We had over 30 attend our fall session,” said Calli Sanders, senior associate athletics director. “We had over 30 attend our fall session.”

Freihoefer said he thinks coaches are important, but it stems beyond that because the student athletes have a lot of contact with more than just their head coaches.

“It could even be the recruiting coach who they first have contact with. I think it’s important and great to see a spectrum of staff get involved and been in high attendance,” Freihoefer said.

He also said he’s very proud of both the friends of student athletes and the student athletes who come into the safe zone trainings or the Out2Lunch specials, whether they are allies or identify as LGBT who come in an learn about what they do.

Christina Hillman, thrower for the Iowa State Track team and senior in child, adult and family services, said her teammates are all very loving and supportive though she does know of some indiscretions on the team.

“I do know that one of the guys for sure is against and we just agree to disagree,” Hillman said. “It never shows up or is a factor in our relationship. I’m really thankful for that.” 

Even outside of the throwers, there are grumblings and derogatory slurs said on the team.

“I have heard through the grapevine people say very crude things, but never about me or [toward] me. I know that these people have negative attitudes in general though,” Hillman said.

Her coaches however, have been supportive.

Hillman said the environment might be positive and welcoming, but out of over 400 athletes, Hillman is the only publicly gay athlete at Iowa State.

“I used to think it was such a shame. I worried that it wasn’t a healthy environment for them to come out,” Hillman said.  “Then I thought everyone is just at their own stage of coming out. As long as people are comfortable in their sexuality and don’t feel like they’re being scrutinized or demeaned for it, that’s all that matters.”

In the context of the Big 12, Freihoefer said that the work the athletic department and the LGBT community is doing is “fantastic.”

“If we can also be leaders in our industry and share our practices for how best to serve all student-athletes on a regional or national basis, we are glad to do that,” Sanders said.