LGBTQ athletes at BYU are telling their stories on the Queer Athlete Podcast

While Formerly, he was a closeted homosexual man who competed in the event. Brigham Young University Swimming Zach Anderson It was his favorite thing about it. “exhausting” To pass as straight and to deal with gossip about his sexuality.

Last year, Anderson He discovered that he wasn’t the only one: while listening to a podcast, he accidentally stumbled upon it while scrolling through. Instagram.

The Queer Athlete Podcast The forum was intended to be a place where BYU students can talk about their experiences with being queer at the university. The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-day Saints. Anderson pressed play and he was immediately struck by how the guest’s experiences mirrored his own despite their graduation dates being nearly 10 years apart.

“When somehow you come across someone who shares that with you, it’s like you automatically feel like you just know them without actually knowing them,” said AndersonBYU 2008 graduate, he served two years as a LDS. Church Mission between his years as an athlete.

The Podcast hosted by a former BYU runner Emma GeeThe, has been a safe space for past and future Cougar A vehicle for sharing hope and heartache with athletes

“I think the goal for me, and maybe what I believe the most in, is if people just get the opportunity to listen to some of these athletes’ stories, that it will change their heart and mind,” Gee said.

The Impulse for Gee It was her incredulous feeling when she started the podcast. Officially, BYU accepted an invitation to the Big 12.

Gee The track and cross-country events were held for the Cougars Between 2015 and 2019. For most of that time, she hid something about her identity — she was bisexual. She She came out while still at school, and felt supported by her teammates and coaches.

But there was national concern about the school’s policies regarding LGBTQ students in 2016. At It is now, 25 LGBTQ organizations received a letter To thenBig 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby Ask the league to refuse BYU admission.

The Big 12 didn’t expand in 2016, but five years later announced it would. A Big 12 chancellor at the time said that BYU had “demonstrated really significant progress” Its LGBTQ policies.

It was the chancellor’s words that raised both of Gee’s eyebrows. As an out athlete and former chair of the diversity and inclusion committee for BYU’s Student Athlete Activities Committee, she knew firsthand how the school’s policies and Honor Code Her influence on other athletes was remarkable. Even She graduated in 2020 and said that her friends from the school had told her that things hadn’t changed much.

So Gee She took matters into her hands and made it public.

“It just kind of reminded me that one of the biggest barriers to holding BYU accountable in terms of athletics specifically is that there haven’t been out queer student-athletes and their experiences aren’t being publicly shared,” Gee said. “So back in September 2021, I was like, yeah, we’re missing huge parts of this conversation, so I’m gonna go make that myself.”

For The entire first season. Gee We spoke only to athletes from BYU who identify as queer. Current The podcast has featured gymnasts as the first athletes to appear on it. Mina MargrafA track and field athlete Ty Wright, and volleyball player Jon Stanley.

The The second season includes athletes from other parts the country, but still includes BYU alumni. They All of them talk about how and why they came out and their experiences at BYU as queer athletes.

(Emma Gee) In This screenshot is an ex-BYU runner Emma GeeCenter: Having a conversation Mica SchoenrockLeft: BYU gymnast and. Mina Margraf Information about queer female athletes

Gee The podcast started because she was passionate about foraging. “political reasons.” But it’s become a space for people to not only speak out about difficult experiences at BYU, but also help other queer student-athletes who may be considering attending the religious school or just need to know there are others like them out there.

Listening Inspire Anderson Reach out to Gee. He In the hope that others would never have to go through what he experienced at BYU, I wanted to share his story.

“In a regard, I take it as a responsibility to be able to share my story because I don’t want anyone to experience the same grief and self-loathing and hatred and this need to feel like there’s something so deeply wrong with you when that’s not the case,” Anderson said.

Danny CarneyWith whom was he teammates? Gee BYU’s track and cross-country team, stated that appearing on the podcast was an honor. “cathartic.” He While he was not gay at BYU, he came out in 2020.

“I was really grateful that she gave me an opportunity to share my story in the hopes that it would provoke positive change,” Carney said, “whether that’s in nonmembers of the LGBTQ community feeling a little bit more understanding or being better allies, or in queer athletes at BYU or other schools recognizing that they’re not alone.”

Carney Being a runner made it easier to keep closeted at BYU. He His teammates were his friends and he felt part of a larger community.

And Because Carney was so intensely focused on his performance and being a good teammate, there wasn’t much time to deeply contemplate his sexuality. That He said that he may have been delayed in coming out.

But Not every queer student-athlete at BYU had a positive experience. Anderson His experiences had a negative impact on his athletic performance. He was diagnosed with exercise addiction and overtraining syndrome in his senior year.

“I completely overworked myself in order to have the season that I really wanted before I left BYU thinking that, well, surely enough, if I do this, then I’ll gain more favor from God and from other people, too, despite this thing that I felt like was so internally wrong with me at that time,” Anderson said.

(Emma Gee) Former BYU athlete Emma GeeA podcast that features bisexuals, created by a man who identified as such, was launched last year. Cougars Who are LGBTQ.

Anderson Additionally, he stated that he experienced suicidal thoughts while attending BYU. He At 37 years old, he was diagnosed with cancer. He married his wife and had a baby. He’s now an attorney, nutrition coach and cycle instructor.

Even though he said his experience as a queer athlete at BYU was traumatizing, he wanted to make a contribution to a conversation he deems important, especially since, in his opinion, there hasn’t been much progress at his alma mater nearly a decade and a half since his graduation in 2008.

“Here we are, 14 years later, and the same dialogue is still happening,” Anderson said. “There’s still very harmful dialogue still happening.”

Jaxon Smith, a transgender man, competed on BYU’s women’s lacrosse team and graduated in 2021. He Also, knew Gee While they were still in school, she said that it was therapeutic to speak to her on the podcast as they were able talk about their experiences at BYU. “in past tense.”

Smith He was transgender when he was in his senior year, and was already transitioning. He He said that he took a photo of himself with a girl who was at the time dating him and was asked to meet his coach. When His coach said she should speak to administrators about the situation. He stated that he had to make the difficult decision to resign from the team.

Smith Think about the impact of Gee’s podcast can do wonders for representation and helping youth understand identifying as queer and an athlete doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive. He He said that he feels that the podcast also illuminates issues related to queerphobia or transphobia.

“I think it does a really good job to bring light to those issues and elevate voices who maybe didn’t get a chance to be elevated when they should have been,” Smith said.

Gee When she was the only openly queer athlete at BYU, she became a trendsetter. She She may also be doing the exact same thing with her podcast.

“It may not change the policy, but I think if you change enough people’s hearts and minds, eventually it can help change the culture and make things better,” Gee said.

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