Here are some female pro athletes who came out years before Jason Collins

While the sports world acknowledges the reality that prominent gay professional athletes like Jason Collins exist, our friends at Buzzfeed remind us that the ladies have been breaking barriers as self-identified lesbians for decades.

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Of course, it can’t be overstated how powerful Jason Collins’ coming out is–what the impact will be for other male athletes in football, soccer, baseball, or the profound signal it sends to the African American community. As Garance Franke-Ruta explains, “Female professional athletes are already gender non-conforming. Male ones are still worshiped as exemplars of traditional masculinity.” A high-profile male athlete like Collins coming out can help spark a shift towards embracing wider definitions of masculinity.

But let’s not forget the trailblazing women. As Kate Sheppard notes, claiming Collins is the first openly gay pro athlete implies that “women’s sports don’t matter as much (or don’t exist at all).”

Image via BuzzfeedLGBT.

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7 Comments

  1. Posted April 30, 2013 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    This is so cool! And interesting because I’ve heard of Billie Jean King, Patty Sheehan, and of course Brittney Griner, but I’ve never heard of the others. So thank you for this chart. And I agree, Jason Collins coming out should be an eye open experience for many straight people, especially for them to realize that Collins will not be the only male athlete to come out, there will be MANY more to come. I’m sure of it.

    Although something about the term, “self-identified lesbians” doesn’t really sit well with me. I mean, I know whatever a person’s sexual orientation is, is because that’s how they identify themselves as; what I mean is that there is just something about the term that makes it think it’s more of a “lifestyle” or a “choice” rather than what it’s really about. Truly being a part of who that person is. Of course I know you guys do not mean it that way. It’s just the way it sounds. And also, I think another reason why it doesn’t sit well is because you only hear people describe that about gay women, but I have never heard someone say, “self-identified gay men”.

  2. Posted April 30, 2013 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    Think you mean it can’t be *overstated*.

  3. Posted April 30, 2013 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

    The thing about mainstream culture? It pressures male athletes to fit this mold of masculinity but lets women go. Which is WHY as early as the ’80s women athletes could “come out”.

    • Posted May 1, 2013 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

      mainstream culture “let’s women go”??? are you effing kidding me. of course different genders are under different pressures and extremes. but do you have any idea what it’s like coming out as a woman? clearly not. please don’t be so quick to discount our experiences and apply blanket and misguided assumptions as to why and how these courageous women came out.

  4. Posted May 1, 2013 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    As Kate Sheppard notes, claiming Collins is the first openly gay pro athlete implies that “women’s sports don’t matter as much (or don’t exist at all).”

    Getting tired of having women become invisible once again…

    Agree with emmie on her comment about “self-identified”. WTF? Like it’s something you pick and choose, like the color of your socks.

  5. Posted May 1, 2013 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    Collins will not be the only male athlete to come out, there will be MANY more to come. I’m sure of it.

  6. Posted May 1, 2013 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    How is it that everyone – including this list – is missing Liz Carmouche who competed in the UFC (as part of the first professional female fight) a few months ago and who is openly gay. This was a big story within the MMA community and elsewhere and she was/is heralded as a champion for gay rights as a result.

    For the record she has received nothing but support from within the community and many have stated they’d have no problem with gay male fighters either.

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