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Sports: Lesbian  
page: 1  2  3  4  

In January, 1999, when French tennis star Amélie Mauresmo came out at the Australian Open, surprisingly supportive media criticized, not Mauresmo, but the homophobic comments made by some of her opponents.

Similarly, in 2004, when acclaimed golfer Rosie Jones came out publicly her announcment was greeted with support rather than derision. Jones, who has won more than a dozen LPGA titles and more than $7,000,000 in winnings over a long career, simultaneously announced her lesbianism and an endorsement deal with Olivia, the lesbian and gay travel company.

In 2005 WNBA basketball superstar Sheryl Swoopes announced publicly that she is a lesbian. As with Jones, Swoopes took this bold step with the support of her league and an endorsement deal with Olivia. Perhaps most tellingly in terms of a trend toward greater acceptance of lesbian professional athletes, she also had the support of her principal sponsor, footwear giant Nike.

Gay Games

Gay and lesbian athletes have also responded to discrimination within the sporting world by creating their own venue, the Gay Games. Community softball and soccer teams have long been places for lesbians to meet and gather, and the Gay Games created an international network for these teams.

Begun in 1982, the sports and cultural festival has recurred every four years in locations as varied as Vancouver, British Columbia, New York City, and Amsterdam, attracting over 10,000 participants, about one third of them lesbians. The 2002 games were held in Sydney, Australia; the 2006 event, once scheduled for Montreal, will be held in Chicago.

Tina Gianoulis

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arts >> Overview:  Rodeos

The International Gay Rodeo Association, a thriving group with more than thirty affiliates across the United States and in two Canadian provinces, celebrates both the cultural heritage of the rural West and the glbtq identities of its participants.

arts >> Overview:  Sports: Gay Male

While sports, at least on the major competitive level, may be the final closet for gay men, there have nevertheless been a number of gay male elite athletes.

arts >> Overview:  Sports: Transgender Issues

Fears and misconceptions about transgendered and intersexed athletes abound.

literature >> Brown, Rita Mae

Lesbian poet and novelist Rita Mae Brown, best known for the highly successful Rubyfruit Jungle, resists neat categorization.

arts >> Carstairs, Marion Barbara "Joe"

Marion Joe Carstairs, a colorful gender-bending figure of the twentieth century, first gained fame as a speedboat racer in the 1920s.

arts >> Didrikson, Mildred "Babe"

Despite all her triumphs, Mildred "Babe" Didrikson, one of the greatest women athletes in history, was taunted by charges of "mannishness" and "unnaturalness."

arts >> Frontrunners

Frontrunners is an international confederation of gay, lesbian, transgendered, and gay-friendly runners, joggers, power walkers, strollers, rollerbladers, and sometimes bicyclists of all abilities.

arts >> Gay Games

A quadrennial sporting and cultural event designed for the glbtq community, the Gay Games has become a lucrative attraction for host cities.

arts >> Jones, Rosie

Golfer Rosie Jones enjoyed great success both as an amateur and a professional; since her public coming out in 2004 she has helped increase glbtq visibility in sports.

social sciences >> Kellor, Frances Alice

Frances Kellor was a progressive activist and intellectual who is best known for having led the Americanization movement, but also contributed in a number of other areas.

arts >> King, Billie Jean

Having helped transform the world of professional tennis, Billie Jean King denied her lesbianism in the 1980s, but in 2000 became the first openly lesbian coach of an Olympic team.

arts >> Mauresmo, Amélie

One of the few elite glbtq athletes to come out publicly while still competing, Amélie Mauresmo has held the number one ranking of the Women's Tennis Association.

social sciences >> National Center for Lesbian Rights

Founded in 1977 as the Lesbian Rights Project, the National Center for Lesbian Rights is a public interest law firm committed to advancing the civil and human rights of glbtq people through litigation, advocacy, and education.

arts >> Navratilova, Martina

One of the greatest tennis players in history, Martina Navratilova has become an outspoken supporter of gay and lesbian rights.

arts >> Nyad, Diana

Long-distance swimmer and respected sports commentator has in more recent years spoken out on issues of glbtq rights.

arts >> Outgames

The first world Outgames, held in Montreal in the summer of 2006, inaugurated what promises to be a quadrennial athletic and cultural event that combines the pursuit of athletic excellence with the joyous celebration of community.

arts >> Sheehan, Patty

Hall of Fame golfer Patty Sheehan, who came out as a lesbian at the height of her career, continues to excel on the LPGA Legends tour.

arts >> Swoopes, Sheryl

In 2005 basketball star and three-time Olympic champion Sheryl Swoopes publicly came out as a lesbian and acknowledged her committed relationship with another woman.

arts >> Whipple, Diane

Diane Whipple, the coach of the women's lacrosse team at Saint Mary's College in California, was killed in a dog-mauling; the response of her partner helped establish the right of same-sex partners to equal treatment with heterosexuals.


Axthelm, Pete. "The Case of Billie Jean King." Newsweek (May 18, 1981): 133.

Bledsoe, Lucy Jane. Sweat. Seattle, Wash.: Seal Press, 1995.

Blum, Debra E. "Colleges Sports' L-word." The Chronicle of Higher Education (March 9, 1994): 35-37.

Cahn, Susan K. Coming on Strong: Gender and Sexuality in Twentieth-Century Women's Sport. New York: Free Press, 1994.

Cayleff, Susan E. Babe: The Life and Legend of Babe Didrikson Zaharias. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1996.

Fleming, Anne Taylor. "The Battles of Billie Jean King." Women's Sports and Fitness 1.11 (September-October, 1998): 130-138.

Galst, Liz. "The Sports Closet." Ms. 9.2 (September-October, 1998): 74-80.

Griffin, Pat. Strong Women, Deep Closets: Lesbians and Homophobia in Sport. Champaign, Ill.: Human Kinetics, 1998.

Lipsyte, Robert. "Agreement Without Discussion: Pennsylvania State Lady Lions Basketball Team; Coach Rene Portland Unable to Discriminate Against Athletes Who May be Lesbian." The New York Times (December 20, 1991): 10-14.

Rogers, Susan Fox, ed. Sportsdykes: Stories from On and Off the Field. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994.

Roxxie, ed. Girljock: The Book, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998.

Young, Perry Deane, and Martin Duberman. Lesbians and Gays and Sports. Philadelphia, Penn.: Chelsea House, 1994.


    Citation Information
    Author: Gianoulis, Tina  
    Entry Title: Sports: Lesbian  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated November 24, 2005  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  


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