Javon Gates is a sophomore from Indianapolis, IN studying to be a Physical Therapist. She plays volleyball for USC Upstate, following in the footsteps of her aunt Nikki (Hill) Smith, who played on a scholarship at Indiana University. She is the president of the Athlete Ally Club at her school, and spoke about why she wants to be involved with supporting LGBT equality in athletics with Program Coordinator Brian Healey.
Q: What made you want to be an ally, and get involved with the organization?
A: I wanted to be an Ally because I felt that this was something I can do to help raise awareness for the LGBT community and create a comfortable environment for gay/lesbian/transgender/etc athletes here on campus (and hopefully at the neighboring schools). I had many gay/lesbian friends growing up in middle and high school. They are who they are, and they weren’t afraid to show it. I think it is so wrong that they don’t have the same rights as straight people/couples do. They have feelings and are human beings just like everybody else. There’s nothing wrong with loving whoever you love, whether they be the same sex, race, ethnicity, religious background, etc. or not.
Q: How did you hear about Athlete Ally?
A: I heard about Athlete Ally in one of my SAAC (Student Athlete Advisory Committee) meetings. We had had multiple situations that were brought up in the Fall season that finally revealed that we had a issue on our campus. My SAAC adviser, Louise Ericson, knew of Athlete Ally and told us what the program was all about, about Hudson Taylor, and what Athlete Ally stood for. She asked us if we thought it would be a good idea to start a branch here at Upstate and who, if anybody, was interested. I was very interested from the beginning.
Q: Why do you think having Athlete Ally will benefit USC Upstate?
A: I think that having an Athlete Ally branch here on campus will be very beneficial. It helps create an open environment for everybody and gives everybody even ground. Hopefully, we will help with letting anybody be open about their sexual orientation and to not worry about being outcasted. I want Upstate Athlete Ally to educate what it means to be apart of the LGBT community (whether it be directly or indirectly) and to improve the current negative environment we have towards it. Once they understand what their actions and words can do to people of any sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religious background, etc., hopefully they won’t do or say those things anymore.