by Chris Hartley, director of athletics
I grew up identifying as a heterosexual, cis-gender, white male (and still do now) who found joy, challenge, and excitement participating in sports. My teammates were like family to me, and my participation in athletics helped me to learn life skills that have led to a successful career. It wasn’t until later in my life that I realized I was never taught the lesson to think about my own privilege and how some groups of people had different experiences in athletics than I did.
I first started to think about how athletics was cruel to people who identify as LGBTQ+ when I was in graduate school. I became close with one of the male students in my cohort, who told me he identified as gay. As we got to know each other, he shared his experiences in high school with me. It was painful to hear what he had experienced. His stories forced me to think about how different my experience was and how language and behaviors exhibited by my teammates and I made being an LGBTQ+ athlete difficult and unfair. That friend told me something that I have kept with me: “Chris, if you want the culture to change for LGBTQ+ kids in schools, you must understand that you have one of the most powerful voices. Heterosexual men have the ability to make some of the biggest impact in this work.”
That message jumped in front of me last June when I heard Hudson Taylor, founder of Athlete Ally, speak. Hudson identifies as heterosexual and cis-gender like I do, and was a nationally ranked wrestler who noticed homophobic language that existed in his sport. I knew exactly what he was talking about. As a male athlete, I learned, by listening to older athletes and some coaches, that it was acceptable to use homophobic or sexist language put down a teammate or a competitor. Hudson decided to create an organization to combat these awful practices. When I heard the statistic that LGBTQ+ students are three times less likely to participate in athletics than their heterosexual, cis-gender peers, my commitment to this work was re-energized. I left that presentation thinking about what needs to change in Lakeside Athletics so that more LGBTQ+ students feel supported in athletics, and see athletics as an option for them.
Tonight’s Pride Night event is just one step in the work this department is doing to ensure that every person who is a part of Lakeside Athletics feels supported, empowered, and included. There is more work to do, and I am committed to doing that work.
Chris Hartley is director of athletics at Lakeside School. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.