The Reappearing Act by Kate Fagan

I’ve mentioned Kate Fagan before on this website. Fagan is a columnist and feature writer with ESPN and espnW. She has previously covered the basketball team, Philadelphia 76ers, for the Philadelphia Inquirer. During college, Fagan played Division I basketball at the University of Colorado.

The Reappearing Act, my fourth book choice in the LUYC my reading escapade series, chronicles Fagan’s struggle with her sexual identity while playing elite level women’s basketball at college. It also details the influence of Christianity on her and her teammates, as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes was a popular and active group during Fagan’s time at the University of Colorado.

Fagan’s writing personality is quirky and insightful – I had some laugh-out-loud moments…but I also felt a lot of compassion for her. Her journey through the University of Colorado women’s basketball program was wrought with peer pressure, and when playing a team sport there’s nothing worse than feeling that you don’t belong.

Fagan’s book avoids demonizing or sensationalizing any one group, nor does it sugarcoat her experiences of terror and confusion at being ‘found out’ as gay. What struck me time and again throughout is how alone Fagan was in her circumstance. Discussing homosexuality caused such controversy, rejection, and discomfort amongst her and her teammates, that Fagan often describes feelings of ostracism and contempt. Even those that understood her feelings were reluctant to encourage honesty and openness, as they themselves knew firsthand how vulnerable it is being lgbtq identified in an overwhelmingly heterosexist, and at times homophobic, environment.

I liked the book and appreciated its candour. I was also fascinated by Fagan’s description of college life as an elite athlete: private facilities, Nike sponsored athletic gear, top-notch training facilities, national media coverage…here in Canada our programs are nowhere near this. Furthermore, being an openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, and/or transgender athlete is still quite taboo. Fagan’s story is a reflection of this and I wish there were more of these stories out there to read.