The University of South Carolina Upstate has a great group of Athlete Ally Ambassadors who are helping bring equality for the LGBT community to campus. One such leader is Ashleigh Storme Torres, who told Athlete Ally Program Coordinator Brian Healey about the positive change she thinks the efforts will have on campus.
My name is Ashleigh Storme Torres and I’m an Army brat that was born in Fort Carson, Colorado Springs, Colorado. I moved to Escondido, CA at two and stayed there until Freshman year of HS. Then we moved to Roanoke, VA where I finished HS and lived in Las Vegas, NV for awhile. My family includes my mother, twin sister (20), and younger sister (10). I started running in 4th grade and now run Cross Country and Track & Field for USC Upstate. I also played Basketball from 8th to 12th grade.
I’ve always known I was different since kindergarten. I actually went into a denial in elementary school when I realized that I was a lesbian. The denial lasted a whole week, haha. I finally accepted my sexuality in 7th grade and hid it until I finally came out to my sister when I was 16. I actually never told my mother, she just overheard when I admitted it to my aunt’s female fiancé. Awkward. But she’s cool with it. Now I’m all about educating people on the LGBT community and trying to extinguish gay stereotypes.
How do you think the athletic culture at USC Upstate could potentially be improved through Athlete Ally chapter on campus?
I think Athlete Ally will improve the athlete culture exponentially. Teammates feel like a second family to some people. But families have secrets, and we can be afraid that if the secret gets out, we’ll be shunned by our family. If we can have it to where gay athletes know for a fact that their teammates wholeheartedly support our sexual orientation, imagine the acceptance being the cement to the family bond.
Do you feel Athlete Ally’s being on campus will make it a more welcoming environment for LGBT student-athletes?
Athlete Ally being on campus definitely makes it a more welcoming environment for LGBT athletes. To be able to compete without any bias remarks to our sexuality is amazing. And if an LGBT athlete gets hated on or discriminated against, knowing that our teammates will have our back is so comforting. No athlete should be afraid of any factor such as orientation being used as ammo that would affect any aspects in their sport.
Does allyship from professional athletes like Andy Roddick or any others we’ve worked with seem important in making people more open to LGBT athletes?
Having any well-known and or professional athletes support the LGBT cause, especially an ally, is a huge factor. Athletes have influence. If a kid has Andy Roddick as his hero and role model, and he sees that Andy Roddick is an ally, then the kid may imitate his hero and be accepting as well. We just effectively recruited another ally of the future generation. That’s one more voice helping our cause for equality.
Being an openly lesbian athlete definitely has its challenges. Especially, since I’m in a sport where I’m surrounded by many other female athletes that run around in short spandex and sports bras. If I can be in an environment where If I don’t have to be just so overtly showing that I’m in no way looking at other girls, then that would be so amazing. It’s hard. There’s discrimination everywhere and I don’t want to have to always fight the mentality that LGBT athletes are perverts. It’s easier to prove someone right than it is to prove them wrong.