By Brian Patrick
(From Compete Magazine February 2013 issue)
We honor a number of athletes, both gay and straight, at our annual Compete Sports Diversity Awards. It is always an honor and privilege to present each person with his or her award and then we are honored and privileged again to introduce them to you, our readers. As you read about Molly Lenore, we know you’ll find her just as inspiring as do we.
At the 2012 Compete Sports Diversity Awards Engineered by Lexus held in November in Atlanta, the Inspiring Athlete of the Year Award was presented to Lenore by Compete Magazine’s editor-in-chief, Connie Wardman. She began by reading some of Lenore’s own words. Calling sports a wonderful metaphor for life, Lenore said that “For me, being a transgender person means never really fitting in anywhere. But LGBT sports and the resulting community that had been created has let me be who I am – an athlete, teammate, mentor and friend.”
She continued to say that “It has helped shape me, it has allowed me to preserve the bonds that I had as a male with my male teammates which is so important to me. Playing with the women has helped me feel, if only at times, that I do fit in as a woman, as a lesbian. I am not sure who I would be without sports. I really can’t imagine.”
Although Lenore is a diehard football player, her introduction to the LGBT community was actually through the New York Big Apple Softball League. Just a year after transitioning to Molly, she emailed them, explaining that she was transgender and asking if it was alright for her to play. Their response was “Of course!” It was one of her softball teammates who told her about the New York Gay Football League, then in its first season. She was put on their wait list but didn’t play until the second season. Since football has always been so very special to her, Lenore said that “Playing with the men again felt right for me, it is what I knew; I might have changed my gender but not my mindset.”
Then in 2006 Lenore was invited to play starting middle linebacker with the New York Bad Apples, representing New York at the Gay Games in Chicago. Not long after registering, she was informed that because her team was in the men’s division, she couldn’t play since she had registered as a female. But with the support of her teammates, and Cyd Zeigler of Outsports.com, the Gay Games organizers modified the men’s division to an open division so she could play. Although starting as the lowest seed, the Bad Apples wound up winning the silver medal.
Just months later, she played with the New York Warriors in the National Gay Flag Football League’s Gay Bowl in Dallas where the team won the first of three straight Gay Bowl championships. After playing with the Warriors for six years, in 2012 she decided to play for the New York Dolls, one of the two New York teams sent to Denver this past September to play in the first ever Gay Bowl women’s division.
Although it’s been hard for her not to play with the guys, she says they will forever be a part of her. But it was very important to Lenore to make sure the women’s division was successful. As Commissioner of the New York Gay Football League for the past 10 years, Lenore and Molly Lehman of Denver will be on hand in Phoenix in 2013 to lead the women’s division for Gay Bowl XIII being held over the Columbus Day Weekend.
But there is so much more to Lenore than just football. After spending years as a mortgage banker, by age 30 she decided to honor the artist within and enrolled in art school. Then working for the iconic New York American Museum of Natural History for eight years, she collaborated with Joey Stein to create interactive spaces and large-scale interactive sculptures, an integral part of the museum’s evolution into what is now an immersive multimedia environment. Their combined drive to push the limits of technology led to them founding Moey Inc. in 2003.
As President of Moey Inc., she and co-founder Stein now offer creative exhibit design that they describe as the “intersection of art, science, technology, design and education” to create innovative, dynamic and meaningful technology-based exhibits across the country and beyond-for planetariums, science centers, children’s museums, artists, scientists and corporate clients. Perhaps a part of Moey Inc’s success is because as a company, it retains a sense of fun and adventure. For example, hanging in their office is a neon caricature of Lenore and her signature dreadlocks.
Part of what makes Lenore so inspiring is her willingness to talk about her life before “Molly.” At a time when we are now openly discussing the issue of being transgender, we must recognize that those like Lenore are being very courageous by revealing themselves. Their willingness to be vulnerable about their “difference” opens them to potential attack from those who don’t understand. But they feel the risk is worth it to help people truly comprehend that they are regular people like everyone else. They simply know they were born into the wrong body.
When asked about the physical changes due to the required hormones and the impact on her athletic performance as a woman, Lenore says that her muscle mass has changed. She’s not as strong or fast as she used to be as a man but she also says that she’s turning 48 so it’s hard to separate one cause from the other. Always an athlete, Lenore revealed that growing up as a boy she was active and sports-oriented, playing both football and baseball. She had a younger sister that she got along with and was definitely the big brother protective type.
She was always attracted to women but didn’t necessarily identify with a male sexual orientation. And now, as a woman, she is still attracted to women but says she has really grown beyond that. She now finds that her attraction to someone isn’t based simply on sexual orientation, it’s based on who the person is as a total human being – she now sees no gender barriers.
And her family has always been very supportive of her. Although her father has passed, she shared that even though he didn’t understand, he was supportive of her transition to a woman. Growing up in a loving and supportive family is perhaps one of the reasons why Lenore so firmly believes that people are basically good. Although Moey Inc works with top corporate and museum executives, many of them very conservative and protective of their personal and company/museum reputations, Lenore isn’t aware of facing any difficulty or discrimination from them.
So to you, Molly Lenore, we offer our thanks for helping us all to be more open and accepting. Truly, you are both an inspiring athlete AND human being!
Editor’s Note: If you’ve read our March 2015 issue’s Face-Off column, you know that Eric Carlyle, our publisher and CEO, named Molly as the athlete who best personifies sports diversity to him, personally. I hope all of you have a chance to meet her if you haven’t already – she’s truly remarkable!
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