_SOCIETY Sports Management

_A New Voice

Drexel's Ellen Staurowsky has spearheaded a blog focused solely on LGBT issues in sports.

_Ellen Staurowsky

Staurowsky is a professor of sport management in Goodwin College, with expertise in social justice issues in sport, athlete exploitation and college sport reform.

Sport, as an institution, has historically been behind the times when it comes to issues related to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. But a growing push for social justice in sport has begun to transform cultural attitudes.

The Goodwin College of Professional Studies recently launched the blog, “LGBT Issues in Sport: Theory to Practice,” which aims to be the definitive resource for research on LGBT issues in sports.

Ellen Staurowsky, a professor of sport management, founder of the blog and internationally recognized expert on social justice issues in sport, says she believes we’re at an “interesting moment” in society—by “interesting,” she means that while great progress has been made to address LGBT issues in sport, discrimination and hostile environments are still a reality for LGBT individuals, and now is the time to make serious change.

She’s hoping this blog is a step in the right direction.

The blog serves as a forum, a kind of meeting place, for more than 25 experts and activists from around the country, who have agreed to contribute regularly to the website, sharing their perspectives on issues that affect athletes, coaches and administrators at U.S. colleges and universities. They aim to make significant contributions to the dialogue around homophobia and sexual prejudice in college sport with the ultimate goal of eradicating the hostile climate for sexual minorities in sport within the next five years.

“I felt like we had a hidden treasure in terms of the expanse of scholars who were doing work in this area,” says Staurowsky. “The problem was that their work can sometimes be very discipline-bound, where people who are working on the same topic within the same institution may not even know, from one department to another, that they have a shared interest. This research was known to a very small group of people, in the grand scheme of things.”

Establishing the blog, Staurowsky says, was an attempt to “unlock that treasure a little bit and share it with a broader audience.”

“I see us developing curriculum and classroom experiences for students. In my classes, my students will be required to contribute to a blog project of one sort or another, and this blog could be one of those options.”

Still in its infancy, the blog has already made quite a splash. In its first three months, it saw more than 5,000 visitors.

LGBT issues in sport include, but are not limited to, discrimination, excluding athletes from teams, harassment, bullying, physical mistreatment, psychological torment and issues regarding locker room policies and team tryouts for transgender individuals, to name a few.

“One recent case involved a coach who allegedly was dismissed despite being extremely successful because of the fact that he is openly gay,” Staurowsky. “That’s not an unusual story within the athletic community.”

The blog was conceived last year in response to goals identified at the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Sport (SOGIS) Conference hosted by Texas A&M in April 2012 and the Nike LGBT Sports Summit at Nike World Headquarters in June 2012.

“In a workshop prior to the SOGIS conference, researchers and activists convened to talk about future directions and one of the issues that came up was the necessity for a public vehicle that would showcase the work of researchers,” Staurowsky says. “This vehicle could help people learn more about the expanse of the research that was being done, and make connections between current events and research. Also, we wanted to create a dialogue across disciplines and across the public policy spectrum to advance research initiatives in the future.”

The blog provides public access to research focusing on LGBT issues in sport, with the goal of turning theory into practice in order to make sport more inclusive. It’s also a place to share research that has been vetted through peer-reviewed processes to facilitate a greater awareness of work being done in this field and connect researchers and activists in order to impact public policy and education.

“We want to take that research perspective and really contribute to the public dialogue in a way that will enlighten policy makers and help them make good decisions,” she says.

“It’s going to take time for us to really mobilize the power and resources that we have in this coalition,” Staurowsky says. “But based on the feedback that I’ve already gotten, this kind of a project validates the experience of marginalized students. The outpouring of appreciation was really humbling, and not something I expected or anticipated. Yet, it was one more reminder why the work that we do is so important.”

Staurowsky says she expects the blog’s reach to grow in the near future.

It’s only natural for Drexel students to become involved in the blog, Staurowsky says, since it was designed with the University’s mission in mind.

“Drexel has always had this express mission of higher education in service to the public good—this blog was designed with that mission in mind. We see this as a direct expression of that higher purpose,” she says.