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Old 07-05-2004, 02:00 AM
FENWAY FENWAY is offline
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Default Michele Van Gorp becomes the first WNBA player to publicly acknowledge being gay

This was the front page news in the minneapolis Tribune sports section today.
[img]i/expressions/face-icon-small-confused.gif[/img]

Lynx' Van Gorp acknowledges she's gay
Pam Schmid, tar Tribune
July 4, 2004 GORP0704


Michele Van Gorp has no desire to be an activist. Although the Lynx center has never tried to hide that she is gay, the last thing she wants to do is push buttons or get in anybody's face about it.

"It's no big deal," Van Gorp said matter-of-factly of her recent public disclosure. "It's just who I am."

But it is a big deal, others say -- because talking about being gay is nearly unheard of in either men's or women's professional sports today. The reasons are many: fear of losing endorsement opportunities, of causing distractions, of perpetuating stereotypes.

Van Gorp became the only active WNBA player to publicly acknowledge being gay when Lavender, a Twin Cities-based magazine geared to Minnesota's GLBT (gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender) community, published an interview with her last week. In the article, the 27-year-old talked about her basketball career and her relationship with Kyleen, with whom she celebrated a civil union four years ago.

"It's as rare as hen's teeth," said Pat Griffin, a social justice professor at UMass-Amherst whose book, "Strong Women, Deep Closets," was the first to analyze the lesbian experience in sports. "Every time an athlete comes out, it makes it easier for other athletes. The closet is no picnic. ... With younger athletes struggling with their identities, it literally saves lives to have athletes come out as role models."

As Van Gorp sees it, the Lavender article didn't herald her coming out because "I've never been in the closet." Her union with Kyleen is common knowledge; teammates and Lynx fans have seen them together at team events and in public. For years, the Lynx media guide has mentioned she has a spouse.

But almost always, homosexuality in professional sports remains deeply closeted. No man on a major professional team has revealed he is gay while still playing (former Viking Esera Tuaolo did so in 2002, but only after retiring from the game). When the New York Post suggested in the spring of 2002 that a Mets player was gay, catcher Mike Piazza quickly called a press conference to declare he is straight. Helen Carroll, director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights and coordinator of the NCAA-sponsored Project to Eliminate Homophobia in Sports, said she has counseled many gay men in sports, including professional football and basketball players who remain closeted.

Female athletes also have been loathe to come out -- fearful of losing sponsorships dollars, or of being viewed as a spokeswoman or activist.

The closet is deepest in team sports. Before Van Gorp's disclosure, Sue Wicks of the WNBA's New York Liberty was the only member of a female professional team to publically come out while still playing. "There's a certain level of ... trying to protect the team from controversy," Griffin said.

Reluctance also stems from fears of bolstering outmoded stereotypes that most female athletes are gay, a stereotype that has diminished since the advent of Title IX, which outlawed gender discrimination at federally funded institutions.

Griffin and others believe the tide might be turning, albeit slowly, for gay athletes who do go public. They appear to be suffering fewer consequences, monetary or otherwise.

The measure of change can be seen in the different reactions to tennis great Martina Navratilova coming out in 1981 vs. French star Amelie Mauresmo doing so 19 years later. Navratilova was ostracized, baited by tabloid reporters who asked, "Are you still gay?" and didn't even have a clothing sponsor after winning her ninth Wimbledon title.

Mauresmo's disclosure caused a brief stir before quieting. Today, in the age of "Will and Grace" and "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," she talks openly about her female partner, wears a ring on her wedding finger and says her endorsement earnings have remained steady.

In March, veteran LPGA golfer Rosie Jones told the world she was gay in a first-person story in the New York Times -- just after accepting a lucrative sponsorship with a travel company that caters to lesbians. Since then, she has reported no negative feedback.

"The stage is being set," Carroll said. "People want to be able to be who they are, not have to lie to people around them about who they are. It doesn't matter who they sleep with; it's who they are."


Several WNBA teams have found that openly marketing to lesbians, an audience they know has historically made up a sizable portion of fans, makes good business sense.

While the league has no overall policy on marketing efforts, "we've had a good response from the lesbian community, and some of our teams do actively target that audience in their ticket sales efforts," WNBA President Val Ackerman said. "It's been win-win. So, yeah, it is good business -- especially in this day and age when many companies are understanding of their customer bases."

The Sacramento Monarchs have staged gay pride events in conjunction with home games. In Los Angeles, the Sparks signed a lesbian social club as a strategic partner. The Seattle Storm held a gay pride night.

The Lynx also have had tie-ins -- staffing a booth at last weekend's Gay Pride festival, advertising in local gay publications and routinely giving away tickets at a downtown Minneapolis bar catering to gays and lesbians.

Other women's sports groups have been more squeamish about such linkage. After Sparks owner Jerry Buss made national headlines in 2001 for making a publicity appearance at a lesbian bar, officials from the LPGA, the now-defunct Women's United Soccer Association and the Women's Tennis Association pointedly said they do not market directly to lesbians.

"When organizations have diversity -- lesbians, straight people, families and people who might think homosexuality is immoral -- you don't want to offend groups but you want to be open to everybody who's interested in women's basketball. That's a hard balance to strike," said Ann DeGroot, executive director of OutFront Minnesota, the largest organization for GLBT people in Minnesota.

Even if homophobia keeps a small minority of fans away from games, many say society is much more accepting of gays than it was a couple of decades ago.

"It's not the negative it used to be," said Dean Bonham, a Denver-based sports marketing consultant. "Sports fans in particular and the population in general are comfortable with the fact that there are different groups out there and they may be rooting for someone who isn't of the same group that they are."

Growing up gay

Van Gorp grew up in the blue-collar town of Warren Mich. By eighth grade, she already had shot up to 6-4. Every day, she was teased by schoolmates who called her "Godzilla,"oak tree" and "stork."

"I didn't have to deal with the gay issue then, not when you're the tallest person in the whole freaking school," said Van Gorp, who is 6-6 Not until she went to Purdue on a basketball scholarship (she later transferred to Duke) did she face up to the realization that she was gay. She met Kyleen while in college; they have been together more than seven years.

Van Gorp has never hid her relationship from her friends and family. Although she felt Kyleen's involvement with the team became "an issue" when she played for the New York Liberty in 1999, it hasn't been an issue since.

In Minnesota, where she has played the past four seasons (she's now on the injured list because of a stress reaction in her foot), she says she feels accepted.

"She's very comfortable with her lifestyle -- very confident and open," Lynx coach Suzie McConnell Serio said. "That's a personal choice, and I'll support my players in whatever choices they make."

Van Gorp's recent public disclosure in Lavender was the talk of the Gay Pride Festival last week, DeGroot said.

"Everybody was really excited," she said. "She came out in a beautiful way. It wasn't defensive or being outed. It's like, 'Hey, I'm a lesbian. Let's move on.' "

But Van Gorp made clear she has no desire to serve as the poster woman for lesbians in the WNBA. There is too much else in her life with sisters, dogs, friends and teammates. Her orientation has no bearing on her hook shot or her rebounding skills.

"It doesn't really matter," she said. "In the long run, it's a league about basketball."

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Old 07-05-2004, 02:01 AM
XXGameXX XXGameXX is offline
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Default RE: Michele Van Gorp becomes the first WNBA player to publicly acknowledge being gay

who will guess the % of lesbian women in the WNBA
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Old 07-05-2004, 02:05 AM
Buck Swope Buck Swope is offline
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Default RE: Michele Van Gorp becomes the first WNBA player to publicly acknowledge being gay

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Old 07-05-2004, 02:07 AM
De Niro De Niro is offline
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Default RE: Michele Van Gorp becomes the first WNBA player to publicly acknowledge being gay

2 IN EVERY TEAM?

STUPID QUESTION

HOW CAN A FEMALE RAPE ANOTHER FEMALE?

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Old 07-05-2004, 02:07 AM
FENWAY FENWAY is offline
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Default RE: Michele Van Gorp becomes the first WNBA player to publicly acknowledge being gay

She needs to go eat at a buffet[img]i/expressions/face-icon-small-happy.gif[/img]
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Old 07-05-2004, 02:09 AM
De Niro De Niro is offline
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Default RE: Michele Van Gorp becomes the first WNBA player to publicly acknowledge being gay

BUCKSWOPE

DOES SHE HAVE A BONER OR IS SHE PLAYING W/ A STRAP ON
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Old 07-05-2004, 02:15 AM
nfleqbc nfleqbc is offline
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Default RE: Michele Van Gorp becomes the first WNBA player to publicly acknowledge being gay

Quote:
Originally posted by: FENWAY
"It's as rare as hen's teeth," said Pat Griffin, a social justice professor at UMass-Amherst whose book, "Strong Women, Deep Closets," was the first to analyze the lesbian experience in sports. "Every time an athlete comes out, it makes it easier for other athletes. The closet is no picnic. ... With younger athletes struggling with their identities, it literally saves lives to have athletes come out as role models."
I didn't even know UMass had a Department of Social Justice... probably one of the Commies in the Social Thought and Political Economy Department, though...

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Old 07-05-2004, 02:20 AM
FENWAY FENWAY is offline
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Default RE:Michele Van Gorp becomes the first WNBA player to publicly acknowledge being gay

Van Gorp grew up in the blue-collar town of Warren Mich. By eighth grade, she already had shot up to 6-4. Every day, she was teased by schoolmates who called her "Godzilla,"oak tree" and "stork."

LOL[img]i/expressions/face-icon-small-happy.gif[/img]
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Old 07-05-2004, 02:26 AM
alec alec is offline
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Default RE:Michele Van Gorp becomes the first WNBA player to publicly acknowledge being gay

FENWAY -- What's funny about it?
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Old 07-05-2004, 02:29 AM
Greedo Greedo is offline
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Default RE: Michele Van Gorp becomes the first WNBA player to publicly acknowledge being gay

It's too bad this is even a story. By now you'd think we'd have evolved beyond caring about a person's sexual preferences.

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Old 07-05-2004, 02:30 AM
The Major The Major is offline
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Default RE: Michele Van Gorp becomes the first WNBA player to publicly acknowledge being gay

I tend to believe that most people have Greedo. At least I would like to believe that.
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Old 07-05-2004, 02:32 AM
stevo stevo is offline
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Default RE:Michele Van Gorp becomes the first WNBA player to publicly acknowledge being gay

I thought several of these women had already admitted this.

Good for her.
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Old 07-05-2004, 02:36 AM
FENWAY FENWAY is offline
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Default RE:Michele Van Gorp becomes the first WNBA player to publicly acknowledge being gay

Quote:
Originally posted by: alec
FENWAY -- What's funny about it?

We had a guy on our high school Basketball team they called Learch (close to 7 feet), It did not bug him but girls our probably more sensitive brought back memories when I read that. Actually those our pretty good nicknames for a tall basketball player.
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Old 07-05-2004, 02:47 AM
randyrohm randyrohm is offline
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Default RE:Michele Van Gorp becomes the first WNBA player to publicly acknowledge being gay

De Niro, Does she have a boner? I went back and looked at the pic again. LMFAO!!
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Old 07-05-2004, 03:30 AM
ic ic is offline
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Default RE:Michele Van Gorp becomes the first WNBA player to publicly acknowledge being gay



I think she is "packing heat".
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Old 07-05-2004, 03:36 AM
De Niro De Niro is offline
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Default RE:Michele Van Gorp becomes the first WNBA player to publicly acknowledge being gay

I THINK HER FLAPS STICK OUT MORE THAN JJ"S 2.5 " PECKER
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Old 07-05-2004, 03:47 AM
timbo37 timbo37 is offline
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Default RE: Michele Van Gorp becomes the first WNBA player to publicly acknowledge being gay

Someone help me out here. Is it Michele or Michael?
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Old 07-05-2004, 04:07 AM
KidVegas KidVegas is offline
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Default RE: Michele Van Gorp becomes the first WNBA player to publicly acknowledge being gay

Only one has come out of the closet? When can we expect the rest of the league to come out? Some people just can't deal with the WNBA as a pussy lickin league. I can. Grow up people.
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Old 07-05-2004, 04:15 AM
BENN BENN is offline
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Default RE:Michele Van Gorp becomes the first WNBA player to publicly acknowledge being gay

I wanna join a pussy lickin league...helll ill start my own pussy licking league[img]i/expressions/face-icon-small-happy.gif[/img]
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