By Dirk Smith, MSc, SDL (He/Him)
Black History Month is the time for all of us to recognize, learn and celebrate the accomplishments of people of color throughout history. We’d like to recognize a three LGBTQ+ athletes of color who have made important strides in representation and equality for all.
Currently playing for the Los Angeles Sparks in the WNBA, Seimone Augustus also took home a gold medal playing for Team USA at the 2012 Olympic Games shortly after publicly coming out as a lesbian. In an interview with ESPN’s Outside The Line’s she commented about how coming out has been a positive experience.
“I was on such a high note, as far as being happy with who I am, it didn’t really matter what anybody else thought. … It really was a non-issue. Every text, every call, every email, any time of communication I received has been positive.”
In 2010, NCAA Basketball Player Kye Allums came out as a trans man, solidifying his place as the first openly transgender NCAA Division 1 athlete. In an interview with Outsports he commented.
“I used to feel like trans anything was really weird, and those people were crazy, and I wondered, ‘How can you feel like that?'” Allums said. “But I looked it up on the Internet and I thought, ‘Oh my god, I’m one of those weird people.’ And I realized they’re not weird. It’s all in your mindset and how you think.”
And coming out to his coach…
“I was gonna have to hide a piece of me that was really important,” Allums said. “All my teammates knew. I don’t like keeping things from coach; I’m a very open person. It got to the point where I decided I wasn’t going to go through a whole season with my coach not really knowing me, even though I knew it would probably make him feel uncomfortable.”
Allums found support from his teammates, coach and the George Washington University women’s basketball program for which he played for. Unfortunately, the journey hasn’t been the easiest since coming out when Allum’s NCAA career was cut short due to a concussion he received during a game. Later on he revealed he attempted suicide following an ESPN “Outside the Lines” segment and story in which Allums was regularly misgendered, questioning his place on the women’s team and making claims that the Allum’s teams’ poor performance that season was due in part to Kye’s coming out.
“Suicide is so prevalent in the trans community,” Allums told HuffPost Live. “41 percent of people in the trans community have attempted suicide –- I was one of them. That was all because of someone who didn’t take the time to listen to what I said –- who didn’t care, who didn’t value me as a person and who just saw me as, ‘Oh, you’re just this story.’”
Allums has made a career for himself as an activist and public speaker to share his story and life as a trans man. He starred in Laverne Cox’s documentary “The T Word” and produced a project called “I Am Enough” to encourage other LGBTQ+ people to share their story and published a book called “Who Am I?” sharing poems and letters about himself and his journey.
Retired NFL player, Wade Davis came out publicly in 2012, 10 years after retiring from the NFL and spoke publicly about being in the closet as a professional football player. Since then, he has made a career in activism and public speaking for LGBTQ+ athletes. He is the former executive director for the You Can Play project and started the YOU Belong Initiative where he developed a three-day leadership development clinic for LGBTQ+ and Allied youth. In 2014 he became the NFL’s first diversity and inclusion consultant where he works with the NFL and their corporate sponsors on bridging the gap between the league and LGBTQ+ community.