My usual disclaimer when it comes to such stories: I haven’t seen any other posts about this story. And really it’s just the sort of thing I can write about without fretting too much since my take on it can be pretty much experience-based.
I ran across this story at Joe.My.God.com, one of my favorite aggregators of things either LGBTQ-related or somehow affecting those like me who are LGBTQ. The UMass, Amherst, football team is scheduled to host Liberty University’s team on Saturday, October 8. In the process of publicizing the game they’ve announced that the day’s program will include the UMass team’s celebration of Pride.
As the linked article notes:
UMass doesn’t have a particularly good football team, but they apparently drafted the finest trolls in the country.
There’s speculation as to whether this was intentional or just a happy coincidence but really I don’t think there’s any doubt that it was completely intentional. Not only does it have the benefit of making Liberty U squirm, but there is a deeper and more laudable goal than that:
Liberty, like other “religious” schools, make a point of banning openly gay students. What it doesn’t and cannot do is ban closeted gay students. While there’s no guarantee that Liberty has any such students it’s overwhelmingly likely for the simple reason that undergraduates who attend the school may or may not have wanted to go there. A certain proportion were undoubtedly sent their by their parents despite their fervent desire to go someplace more mainstream. Another proportion may simply not have realized their sexual orientation or their gender identity until after they started college.
I went to a very progressive state university on Long Island but I started there in 1968. I had no conscious understanding of my sexual orientation as an incoming freshman. The Stonewall Riots happened between my freshman and sophomore years and when I returned to campus in the fall there was a newly formed gay student group, I believe one of the earliest schools to have one.
I believe both Columbia University and NYU had older campus groups, one of both of them going back far enough to label themselves “homophile,” an expression that became quite suddenly obsolete in the summer of 1969. The acronym “LGBTQ” was probably implied in the title but the expression had not come into use then and would not for another couple of decades. In any case, despite having gay friends from that point forward it wasn’t until my final year that I actually admitted to myself that I was gay and I didn’t go so far as to tell another person until after I graduated. So that was my level of comfort at being gay while in college.
Just imagine what it must be like to start at a place like Liberty U and then, despite church and familial pressure to deny it, realizing that you’re LGBT and that there really isn’t a cure because it’s not a disease. Nobody is safe for you to talk to because the administration is bound to be informed and then bad things will happen to you that have nothing to do with God smiting you.
So what better way to help students in that situation to realize they aren’t alone than to have the school hosting your university’s football team include a Pride event as part of the game day program?
To be honest here what initially grabbed me about this particular story was UMass engaging in tweaking the delicate sensibilities of its opponent. I actually owe it to some of the commenters on the Joe.My.God post to see the larger and more profound aspect of this. So...good on UMass.
(Note: I’ve made an edit so it’s clear that the game will take place at UMass, not at LibertyU.)