[Content note: Discussion of bullying, self-harm]
In this piece, Griner talks of the racist, sexist, and homophobic bullying she endured growing up, as well as her consequent contemplations of suicide.
Although perhaps some people might think that women's sports are a bastion of tolerance, oftentimes they're not. I experienced similar bullying growing up as a female athlete. As a girl who was good at sports and, thus, a "tomboy," boys and girls alike knew all the right triggers to try to keep me in my place. Do we really need to re-hash the slurs? I don't think so.
Usually, bullies had the approval of adults and authority figures who, through their silence, were complicit in the bullying themselves. Others were active participants in it. I grew up post-Title IX in a place where, like many parts of America, many people - men, especially - loudly resented "their" boys' teams having to share athletic facilities, fields, equipment, money, and courts with lowly girls. When that's the entitlement boys were being taught, they learned that they were justified in ridiculing female athletes.
One adult. It would have taken one adult to have intervened and it could have changed my life back then for the better.
Instead, I spent years largely feeling alone, isolated, and hated during my teenage years. I spent a year considering tangible ways I could maybe kill myself.
While male athletes were celebrated, female athletes were made to feel like we were taking resources and attention away from boys - the ones who really deserved such things. And, I knew no openly gay people, even as people speculated about some of my various female "dyke" coaches, some of whom, it turns out, actually were secretly gay.
I don't have some big epiphany of a hero stepping in and saving me, but things did gradually get better, as I reflect where I once was and where I am now.
And, as I've engaged with, yes I'll say it, anti-gay people on the Internet who have seemed infinitely more concerned with not appearing bigoted than they have with not actually being bigoted, I continue to question how many of them can truly appreciate that talking about gay rights, for many of us, isn't a mere esoteric, intellectual debating exercise wherein it's "fun" to parse how if we just maybe understood this one Christian doctrine "better" we could maybe see that maybe it doesn't quite technically meet a definition of anti-gay so won't gay people just be a little more "charitable" in throwing around the word "anti-gay"?
I also continue, admittedly, to process my anger at those who believe that it's Christians and Poor Tim Tebow who are the Real Victims of bullying in the US, in which they constitute a majority. Not that Christians can't be bullied, but you know, false moral equations and simple-minded cartoons rarely embiggen the discourse about culture war topics.
So it goes.
My best wishes to Brittney Griner as she heads toward her professional basketball career.