As an intern with Athlete Ally and a student athlete at Duke University, I was elated to join Ashland Johnson, Athlete Ally’s Director of Policy, as a participant in Nike LGBT Sports Summit out in Portland, Oregon. The two-day #BeTrue summit was organized by the LGBT Sports Coalition — a group deeply invested in athletics and increasing diversity and inclusion in sports. Their goal was to bring together as many active change-makers and advocates as they could under one roof, so we could learn from each other and collaborate on how to move forward.
I’ve always been pretty active in bridging the athletic and LGBT community at Duke, but a lot of that just comes from being who I am and living authentically. After my own struggle in coming out and the toll it took, I knew that my visibility could be crucial for other athletes that may be feeling the same pressure and unnecessary shame that I felt.
Through creating student groups, campaigns, and hosting countless campus events, I am helping to spread the message on campus that LGBT athletes are accepted, respected, and celebrated at Duke. I do my best everyday to be a walking, breathing example of this for anyone — an out athlete who is thriving and focusing on the positives, never the negatives, and always pushing for something better. In this journey, I’ve been met with overwhelming support from allies. My friends, teammates, coaches, staff, and athletic department have been nothing short of incredible and encouraging, and I am so grateful.
But, sometimes I can feel a bit lost and distant on campus, without a group of people I can really relate to. When I heard about the LGBT Sports Summit, I was overwhelmed with the possibility that I’d get to meet 120 individuals that not only supported me, but also understood me and had a wealth of knowledge and experience that I could hear and identify with. I was admittedly a little nervous, as a small-town kid embarking on what was one of the longest, furthest, and most uncertain journeys of my life. But upon my arrival, I quickly realized how ridiculous my nerves were; because I had stumbled into the most diverse, welcoming, and inspirational group I’ve ever had the honor to consider myself a part of.
I was able to hear experiences, stories, and knowledge from college athletes like myself, accomplished coaches, high school athletes, passionate administrators, nonprofit leaders, transgender athletes who are paving the way in sports — and many more incredible people. We explored a variety of topics together, including but not limited to, religion, the coach’s role, transgender inclusion, creating safer spaces, and using social media effectively. The knowledge I was able to develop over the course of that weekend was amazing, and provided me with a deeper and much more comprehensive sense of whom and what I’m actually trying to create change for.
There was a point over the weekend when all summit attendees younger than 19 and older than 60 were called to stand on stage. It was an incredibly powerful moment for everyone, to see the past and future of the LGBT sports movement- as everyone watching on silently vowed to fill the gap in between. This reminded me how important visibility is. Being an out athlete on campus, or anywhere for that matter, isn’t always easy. Sometimes people in my life urge me to remain quieter, to censor myself, and take a step away from visibility. Without any role models I felt personally connected to, it was hard to remain confident about the path I was taking due to this isolation and discouragement, and I kept inherently shying away from attention.
Luckily, I now have those visible role models, those allies who I know support me unconditionally. About 120 allied role models, to be exact! Everyone I met at the Nike summit embodies visibility and strength, and I know they will continue to do with pride, confidence, and bravery. It’s been such an incredible experience getting to meet and work with this group, and I’m so thankful to everyone who contributed to the environment that allowed us all to grow as athletes, activists, allies, and people. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more confident in who I am and how powerful that is, and can now go carry out all the work I do in the future with that confidence and inspiration.
-Lauren Miranda, Intern