By Emily Hostetler
Assistant Copy Editor
Students show their pride, love and awareness of the LGBTIQA community during a week dedicated to equality and acceptance for everyone.
PRIDE Week was from Oct. 29 to Nov. 2, and featured daily events to allow students to share their PRIDE support and learn more about the LGBTIQA community at Ohio Wesleyan.
On Tuesday, Oct. 30, a question and answer panel discussion entitled “Out Athletes and Homophobia in Sports,” invited students to listen to stories told from both homosexual and heterosexual students about their experiences with people who “came out” as an athlete.
The panel included sophomore Kyle Simon as moderator, and seven other students comprised of PRIDE officers such as juniors Anthony Peddle, president, Sean Anthony, public relations chair, and sophomore Meredith Harrison, treasurer and Spectrum Resource Center intern.
Peddle said Ian McCaslin, a Spectrum Resource Center intern, collaborated with PRIDE for PRIDE Week and he recommended the event “to open the campus community to LGBTIQA athletes and students on campus.”
Harrison joined rugby when she came to OWU, but said she never had to officially come out to her team; there was just an understanding.
“Rugby is such a unique sport, especially for women to play, that I think you already kind of have to be a very open-minded person to go into rugby,” freshman Katrina Mason-Bentz said.
“We are all really, really close and we are all so open and nonjudgmental about things that I know for our team, it wasn’t even something you think about.”
McCaslin, a captain of the cross country and track team, said when he came out to his team, everyone was “more or less accepting.”
“The coaches were surprised and one of them you can tell is still uncomfortable, but he is trying to be respectful,” he said. “The week before (coming out) I had actually tanked a race because I was so worried … when I told my coach he was like ‘oh, thank God’ because he thought something bad was happening … he was actually glad I was gay.”
Harrison said she waited ti come out until after high school because students at her school said “really awful things” about a girl who was suspected to be gay.
“I decided to come here and be super open about it (my sexuality) and just see what happened,” she said.
“This campus has a lot of support from faculty and students which is really important.”
During the panel, Simon mentioned 28 active NFL players have gone on record supporting LGBTIQA rights.
While observing team dynamics at a recent swimming and diving meet, Peddle said he noticed the teams were “not making a point of the differences, rather working collaboratively to get that score and encourage each other.”
“Being an out athlete is a very beneficial thing,” Peddle said.
Sophomore Hannah Sampson, an LGBTIQ ally and member of the cross country and track team who spoke on the panel, said the cross country and track team has become more active in PRIDE, especially this year.
“After we knew Ian was gay, we realized we didn’t know much about the community as a whole, so a lot of us have joined PRIDE and are trying to learn more about the community and be supportive,” Sampson said.
McCaslin reminded the audience when being on a team, or being with a group of friends, saying derogatory comments related to homosexuality is inappropriate.
“It’s not your teammates saying something; it’s the teammates not saying something when it’s happening,” he said.
“If someone were to use a racial slur, people everywhere would call them out, but when someone uses a slur about women or particular LGBTIQ people … no one will call them out.”
Team members spend so much time together during practices, tournaments, meets and games that Anthony said the team becomes a family and a family needs to work together.
“A family needs all of its members to work to its full potential,” he said. “That’s something really special about sports, to have a family you can go to.”
Freshman Courtney Austin said he has not heard anyone say anything negative about his orientation within his team.
“We all crack jokes and my thing with jokes is when they crack a joke about my orientation, it’s because they are comfortable with it not because they hate me because of it,” he said.
“That’s my way of realizing they accept me for not necessarily who I am but, what I do, and seeing acceptance from them helps you accept yourself.”
Sophomore track member Josh Denison said he was used to his friends being open about their orientations back at home and that he was happy to see some acceptance for his friends at OWU as well.
PRIDE Week also featured a PRIDE discussion on coming out, a day of wearing PRIDE spirit and a viewing and discussion of “The Anatomy of Hate; A Dialogue of Hope.”
“It has been about three years since we last hosted them (Anatomy of Hate director and producer) on our campus and when they were here last, the Westboro Baptist Church was going to come and caused the birth of Love Day on the Jay,” Peddle said.
He said the film is an opportunity to “explore the ‘why’ of specific groups’ backgrounds.”
PRIDE’s goal is to share LGBTIQA issues facing the community while educating the OWU campus about these issues during PRIDE Week.
They also want to show the diversity of the students who are involved with PRIDE.
“We’re not just a group of people with letters; we are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, pansexual and ally — proud individuals who want the campus to know that a word, or letter in a group of letters doesn’t identify you,” Peddle said.