Queer Athletes and Allies Promote Inclusion

Peter Sills

sillspet@grinnell.edu

John Gallagher ’17 and Maddy Pesch ’16 hope to raise awareness on sports teams about inclusion.  Sarah Ruiz

John Gallagher ’17 and Maddy Pesch ’16 hope to raise awareness on sports teams about inclusion.
Sarah Ruiz

Last week Queer Athletes and Allies (QAA) teamed up with the Stonewall Resource Center’s Queer Cultures Week to raise awareness about inclusivity on campus. The QAA designed and put up posters around the Bear of professional athletes that identify as LBGTQ, such as U.S. soccer player Abby Wambach.

“We did the posters as a means to get student athletes aware that it was Queer Cultures Week and to get the word out about professional athletes who manage being confident in their identity with their careers. We also wanted to invite people to come to our meetings. We want to make sure the message is clear that people can come whenever they want to,” said Maddy Pesch ’16, a QAA co-leader.

QAA started in 2012 as a support group for athletes who did not feel included on their teams, both NCAA and club. This fall, it roared into campus-wide action, catalyzing the GC Pride Campaign, which featured pride night, repainting the Grinnell logo on the football field with pride colors, hosting a tie-dye festival and holding inclusion meetings for every team. Despite the group’s progress, co-leader John Gallagher ’17 said he is looking to “keep the posters up as long as possible to keep the conversation going.”

Pesch elaborated on the importance of inclusion meetings, a place for students to voice their concerns in an anonymous manner.

“We [give out] at the beginning of the sessions little Post-it notes to write a topic you want to talk about,” Pesch said. “Each team focuses on a discussion that’s specific to their team. It’s more helpful than us telling everyone what they already know about inclusivity.”

Gallagher views the meetings as important because they allow teams to look critically at their traditions and how they either promote or hinder inclusion. 

“It got people talking, and not just about queer-related inclusion. Exclusion doesn’t always look like bullying, but microaggressions can happen,” Gallagher said. “In high school, there were some teams that were more inclusive than others, but the conversation wasn’t being had. People let homophobia and exclusion happen. I thought that, even though Grinnell is accepting, the sports culture and the teams would be exclusive, so I was surprised that it was more inclusive than what I’d experienced.”

The QAA is looking to continue the GC Pride Campaign’s momentum into the spring by selling tie-dye shirts and hosting a color run in addition to bringing some speakers to campus.

“The biggest goal is to get women’s soccer player, Megan Rapinoe, to talk in fall semester 2016, but that’s in planning mode right now. We’ve contacted her agent,” Gallagher said.

For the time being, those interested in Queer Athletes and Allies are encouraged to attend their meetings on Thursdays at 9:00 p.m. in JRC 209.