GV Athletics joins LGBT campaign
A few months ago, it was Washington Wizards player Jason Collins who made waves by coming out as the first openly gay male in a major U.S. professional team sport.
Now, Grand Valley State University is making its support for gay athletes known by becoming a member of the You Can Play Project, whose mission is to “ensure equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation.”
Joe Miller, an intern for the LGBT Center at GVSU, approached Laker athletes at a Student-Athlete Advisor Committee meeting with the idea to join the initiative and make a video proclaiming the school’s support.
“He asked if we wanted to be involved and everyone seemed to be on board for it,” senior cross-country runner Brent Showerman said. “I think anytime you’re working to make your school and community more inclusive—equal opportunity for everybody—I think that’s really important.”
According to the mission statement, “You Can Play works to guarantee that athletes are given a fair opportunity to compete, judged by other athletes and fans alike, only by what they contribute to their sport or their team’s success.”
KC Christopher, a recently graduated softball player and openly gay athlete, said she has noticed that GVSU is an accepting community when it comes to gay athletes.
“I came to Grand Valley as a transfer and I joined the team two years ago,” Christopher said. “I was dating my girlfriend at the time and so I came here already in a relationship and I knew that when I came here—unlike at past schools I’ve been at—I just wanted to be myself and no matter what happened, I knew that I owed it to myself to do that. As soon as I told everyone on the team, they were just so accepting and embraced us. Now they’re some of my best friends and I tell them everything.”
Christopher and Showerman appear in the video alongside other GVSU student-athletes, including Stephen Fuelling (track); Dani Crandall, Alex Stelfox and Briauna Taylor (women’s basketball); Derek Mead (men’s swimming); Jasmine Ramahi (women’s diving); and Alyssa Sharrad (women’s softball).
“Here at Grand Valley athletics, we are committed to supporting all of our student-athletes, including our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender student-athletes,” Athletic Director Tim Selgo said in the video. “At GVSU, you are not judged on your sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, but rather on your commitment to the team and our university. If you can play, you can play.”
The You Can Play Project began March 14, 2012, after the fouding group launched a video centered on the slogan, “If you can play, you can play,” the same message used in the GVSU video. GVSU is the first Division II school to join the organization.
“I think it’s cool for Grand Valley to be the first Division II school to do that,” Showerman said. “I think it says a lot about our school and our athletics program and how we’re not afraid to take a stand and be who we are. I think it’s a positive step for our athletics program and says a lot about our school in general.”
With more professional athletes coming out and organizations like the You Can Play Project coming to fruition, gay rights is garnering more support—something Christopher is excited to see.
“I think that especially in the past few years, people have become much more accepting of it and I know I really appreciate it and I think everyone in the gay community does, as well,” Christopher said. “Hopefully, eventually, we see no hate in the world or on any campuses, and I think we’re definitely moving toward that. With every person that comes and supports the You Can Play Project and supports the LGBT Resource Center—I just think it’s awesome and totally worth it.”