By Grace Mark
In the past two years, the climate of LGBTQ inclusion in college athletics has changed as National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division III works toward creating new resources for LGBTQ athletes, coaches and administrators. In August, the Division III LGBTQ Working Group released new resources for Division III members after spending time examining their programming and identifying areas where additional efforts could prove beneficial.
The NCAA association-wide LGBTQ subcommittee has worked to acknowledge that student athletes, coaches and administrators too often endure social stigma and emotional trauma, which serves as a bar to equitable competitive and learning environments.
At Lewis & Clark, the athletic community is continually working towards creating a more inclusive environment for LGBTQ student athletes. The athletic department has made renovations in their facilities to accommodate transgender students, including building a gender neutral bathroom in the main Pamplin complex and putting up dividers in the showers and changing stalls of the existing bathrooms.
Assistant Swim Coach & Athletic Academic Coordinator Sarit Gluz discussed the goals of the athletic department to create safe spaces for student athletes.
“(Our goal is) making each of those athletes feel welcome and safe and being able to be their authentic self within that athletic community.” Gluz said. “[We are] creating safe spaces physically, and then also having conversations with our teams and with our athletes about how to also create spaces within those communities.”
In the campus community conversations about diversity and inclusion are important. Because sports teams are such tight-knit communities, those are the spaces in which these conversations happen. Creating a safe space for each athlete to have the conversations that matter to them, without feelings of isolation, is important.
Kessa Juda-Nelson, ’21, an LGBTQ member of the rowing team, stresses the ultimate goal of inclusion.
“Letting them be a human, and letting them be an athlete, and letting them be a part of the team, is the best inclusion,” Juda-Nelson said.
Coaches play an important role in fostering common understanding among teams.
“The majority of our athletes … feel that they can have conversations with their coaches that are hard, but understand that their coaches will be respectful, and will take that information and use it in a positive way,” Gluz said. “It creates a more comfortable space to have those conversations, because there is that bond that is almost unbreakable with those people that you put in the work with.”
Will Hoard, ’20, an LGBTQ cross country runner, believes that the co-ed nature of the sport influences this team dynamic.
“(Being both) girls and guys breaks down that gendering wall,” Hoard said. “It’s refreshing to come to Lewis and Clark and be open in my queerness.”
Hoard also emphasized the importance of coaches in creating a positive environment for student athletes.
“It varies team to team, it varies coach to coach,” Hoard said. “That plays a big part, who’s leading you.”
Ultimately, students hope these conversations will lead to a common awareness in which student athletes can be vocal about their identities out of choice rather than speaking out against injustices. LC’s Athletics Department continues to work towards more comprehensive resources for LGBTQ inclusion.