Take A Cue From Angela James

By Erin Cassidy

Imagine your favourite hockey player has just been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Now imagine that same hockey player announce she’s lesbian.

Does that change the way you view her? It shouldn’t.

“I never felt I was an ‘in’ athlete or an ‘in’ homosexual, I’ve always been who I am,” says Angela James, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010.

Growing up in Flemington Park area of Toronto, James had always played hockey, as that was the thing to do.

“Back then, there weren’t a lot of opportunities and hockey was just one of those games that all the neighbourhood kids did, so that’s how I got into it,” she says.

James came out when she was a teenager. James says that her sexuality had no affect on her career at all. According to James, her sexuality doesn’t play on the ice.

In her acceptance speech during her induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame, she recognized her partner of 17 years.

In the past five years, numerous athletes have come out in different sports. Quite famously, Jason Collins in the NBA – formally from the Washington Wizards – , came out in April of this year. Since then it appears that other sports have seen their athletes come out as well

Christine Hsu, 23, a recent graduate from University of Toronto, plays in a lesbian floor hockey league.

Hsu says she is a huge believer in visibility when it comes to professional athletes who are coming out.

“I think it’s great that they come out for kids who need these role models to be out there and to be like ‘hey you know what? They’re playing professional sports and they’re out and it’s okay,’” Hsu says.

“Sports and games acted as an agency for me to socialize with other kids. (It) forced me to speak and pick up English as opposed to sticking with a girl who spoke Mandarin and helped me translate,” says Hsu.

During high school, Hsu played basketball and was on the track team, then played intermural sports such as flag football, volleyball, ultimate Frisbee and basketball in university.

Hsu remembers when Collins publically came out. Her reaction was like most peoples out there.

“When Jason Collins came out in the NBA, I read articles on him, and (all) the reactions to him coming out,” Hsu says. “I thought it was cool.”

When she was nine, Hsu immigrated to Toronto from Taiwan. She said that when she came here she couldn’t speak any English at all and picked it up by playing sports.

“Sports and games acted as an agency for me to socialize with other kids. (It) forced me to speak and pick up English as opposed to sticking with a girl who spoke Mandarin and helped me translate,” says Hsu.

During high school, Hsu played basketball and was on the track team, then played intermural sports such as flag football, volleyball, ultimate Frisbee and basketball in university.

Hsu remembers when Collins publically came out. Her reaction was like most peoples out there.

“When Jason Collins came out in the NBA, I read articles on him, and (all) the reactions to him coming out,” Hsu says. “I thought it was cool.”

OutSport Toronto is an organization that oversees 25 sports and recreation teams in the LGBT community. Shawn Sheridan, chair of OutSport Toronto, says the increasing acceptance of LGBT athletes has a lot to do peoples change of tolerance.

“There was a soccer player back in the ’80’s, Justin Fashanu, who came out and was known to be gay.  After being accused of sexually assaulting a seventeen year old male, he committed suicide, citing in his suicide note he did not believe he would receive a fair trial, and also stating the encounter was consensual,” Sheridan says. “Then today, you look at Jason Collins who actually received a pretty good reception for himself coming out, it has changed very much.

Sheridan believes it has to do with, not only people’s views changing, but that major league sports are doing a lot to change as well.

“Organizations such as the You Can Play project, Standup Foundation, and Athlete Ally. Along with the convergent efforts by pro sports themselves have become more inclusive,” Sheridan says. “And the result of what those organizations are doing, it’s starting to turn around peoples views.”

Sheridan believes that hockey has done the most to welcome LGBT values, partially do to the You Can Play project.

You Can Play project is an organization that is dedicated to making sure equality, respect and safety is in place for all athletes regardless of their sexual orientation. You Can Play challenges the “locker room culture” by focusing only on skills, work ethic and competitive spirits.

Sheridan says that OutSport Toronto not only works with amateur leagues, but they are building relationships with professional sports too.

“We have developed partnerships with professional sports associations,” Sheridan says. “We’ve had (talks with) Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment.”

“I’m really heartened by what all the major league sports are doing (for the LGBT community) and how they’re coming around in wonderful ways,” Sheridan says. “Just in the last couple of years, they’re doing some important work,” Sheridan says.

When it comes to the professional sport world James is optimistic.

“The world is changing, but those stereotypes are still out there absolutely, and there’s still a lot of people who are very prejudice, but… the attitudes and acceptance have come along way,” James says.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s