WNBA Superstar Brittney Griner recently released a tell all book, “In My Skin” about her life growing up as a gay female in a sport’s environment. I read an excerpt online and it just so happens this section was dealing with an incident in high school where she was questioned about her sexuality while waiting for volleyball tryouts. As I read her words of trying to hide who she was and how she was feeling about being questioned, I realized that this felt very familiar.
In high school I was a good athlete and played several sports. Growing up in the 80s if you were very athletic and not very popular, it was assumed that you were gay. I never felt understood in school and people did not make it easy for a shy girl to express herself. If you really knew me, then there was no question that I was very much straight. I have always loved men and had several crushes on different schoolmates. My problem was that I did not know how to express those feelings so I kept them under wraps. In the meantime, people were whispering about my sexuality behind my back. Thankfully, I did not become aware of this until my junior year in college when I ran into one of those former crushes on campus. He was very honest and informed me that he liked me in high school, but thought that I was gay. Imagine my shock!
Getting back to high school, an incident took place that scared me and I reacted in the only way I knew how; with threats of violence. I remember it like it was yesterday. My senior year I was walking to the gym going to basketball practice when I was approached by a girl I had never seen before. She started talking to me and seemed nervous so I smiled and was very nice to her so she would not be uncomfortable. As I entered the locker room to put on my practice uniform, I said goodbye to the girl and didn’t give it another thought. When I entered the gym for practice, I noticed the girl was sitting on the sideline bench watching us. I thought she was interested in playing basketball, but was too scared to try out for the team. I decided to make her feel welcome because I could remember being a freshman and being intimidated by the seniors on the team and I hated the feeling. Every day for a week this girl appeared in the gym during practice and I spoke to her. I thought it strange that she was there daily, but never talked to anyone but me. Then one day she walked up to me in the hall and handed me a note expressing her feelings and asking if we could be together. She had a crush on me! I almost jumped out of my skin! I had no idea how to deal with this. Put yourself in my place for just a minute; I grew up a sheltered church girl in a small southern town. I loved men, but people thought I was gay because I was good at sports. I just couldn’t handle being labeled this way and then a girl hitting on me. My initial reaction was anger! I did not want anyone thinking I was gay and I definitely did not want girls hitting on me! I snapped, I could feel the anger rising and then I saw two of my teammates. I told them what happened and asked them to read the letter to ensure I wasn’t reading it wrong. They confirmed my worst fears so I took it upon myself to approach the girl with my teammates in tow. I shoved the letter in her chest and loudly informed her that I was “NOT GAY” and if I ever saw her again I would beat her a$$ so bad she would wish she was straight. As I was saying the words, I felt bad because her face looked so hurt, but I couldn’t stop or take back what I had said. I tried to block the incident from my mind and I went about my life business as usual. I never saw the girl again and to be honest, I can’t even remember her name.
Now that I am more mature and have lived a little, I realize what I did was one of the worst things I could do. I publicly outed this girl without regard to her feelings and I did not have to live with any of the consequences. As an adult I have several friends and some family members who are gay and I have heard their painful experience on coming out. Reading that passage in Brittney’s book made me go back to that day and I feel awful for this girl. I pray that she was able to overcome what I put her through and I hope that she is living a happy life with a woman who loves her. She did not deserve what I did and I sincerely want to apologize to her. I know I can never make it right and that bothers me. I have no excuse for my behavior and can only say that I was young and dumb and did not understand the magnitude of what I did. If I could do it all over again, I would simply let her know that I was not interested in women during a private conversation. Hopefully someone can learn from my mistake and chose not to belittle someone for showing the affection, even if it is unwanted. I would like to thank Brittney for her honesty and courage to share her story. She will make it easier for people in future generations to express themselves and feel secure in who they are; gay or straight.