LGBTQIA? "You Can Play" at Amherst

Submitted on Tuesday, 7/9/2013, at 11:57 AM

by William Sweet

Teamwork means sticking up for your teammates, putting aside distractions and disputes, and aiming for achievement. Amherst student-athletes understand this, so it’s no surprise that they have come out to declare that Amherst Athletics welcomes and celebrates its LGBTQIA athletes.

Amherst athletes and staff collaborated this semester to create a video for the You Can Play Project, a national effort advocating respect for all collegiate athletes, regardless of sexual orientation. It offers a simple yet profound message: If you can play, you can play.

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“And we want you to play,” President Biddy Martin tells viewers in the promotional video, which was launched this week on the college’s YouTube channel. (You can click the image to see the video)

In the video, more than 90 Amherst athletes join Martin, Athletic Director Suzanne Coffey and coaches in spreading this message.

“Eighteen of the 27 teams are represented, and it would’ve been more, but it was hard for some of the spring teams,” said Assistant Women’s Hockey Coach Liz Gallinaro. The effort first started percolating in women’s hockey and eventually spread throughout the department. “The coolest part of the project was everybody saying, ‘Of course we feel this way,’ Gallinaro said.

The video features comments from some of Amherst’s top athletes. “If you can rip a dive, you can play,” All-American diver Lizzy Linsmayer ’14 says in the video. The video includes supporting comments from Connor Sholtis ’15, All-American swimmer; Jen Newman ’14, All-NESCAC tennis player; and Pat Grimes ’13, All-NESCAC track/cross-country runner, to name just three.

“Amazing student athletes who come to Amherst join a proud tradition of excellence, diversity and tolerance,” Coffey says in the video, with a determined look aimed to the camera. “No matter what their sexual orientation, they support each other, and they get support from coaches, faculty, fellow students and fans.”

Amherst has particularly active organizations advocating for LGBTQIA students, said Angie Tissi, area coordinator and LGBTQIA program coordinator at the college.

“The LGBTQIA community on campus is very inclusive, and it’s a pretty safe place to be. Students on campus like being here,” she said. She has found that, to some extent, gay athletes are less likely to be out than other LGBTQIA students on campus, but she said that is changing.

“We’re not at the end of the race; we’re in the process,” said Kate Beemer ’15, who, as an athletic liason for the Center for Community Engagement and a video intern, was among the students instrumental in getting the project from script to screen.

Beemer said that, while there is support for LGBTQIA athletes, that support is not always immediately obvious to students. “It’s addressed more in the arts community or even female sports, and I also think with male individual sports,” she said. “But as far as male-dominated team sports, there is a lack of acknowledgment to bring it up in open conversation. What was cool about this project is that it raised the discussion for a lot of people who weren’t necessarily talking about it otherwise.”