Hot Docs Special Presentation: Out to Win

Movie description provided by Hot Docs: Sports have the power to reflect and define our cultural identity and shape gender roles. When Michael Sam was drafted to the NFL in 2014, it was a groundbreaking event that blew the closet doors wide open on the challenges faced by professional LGBT athletes around the globe. From pioneers like tennis champions Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King to tomorrow’s superstars, Out to Win chronicles the history of LGBT in sports through perspectives of athletes, coaches, agents, fans and—perhaps most importantly—the media. The personal stories of trailblazers who openly share the sacrifices and conflicts that consumed their professional aspirations give context to present-day athletes whose private lives are increasingly scrutinized in our celebrity-focused culture. Filmmaker Malcolm Ingram connects these generations through the groundbreaking work of advocacy organizations and leaders like Jason Collins who have positively and permanently transformed the professional sports landscape, courts and fields.

This timely and important documentary is being screened at the festival on April 29, May 1 and May 2. Check it out, and go see some of the others they have in store too. Yay! to another year of Hot Docs.

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In My Skin: My Life on and off the Basketball Court by Brittney Griner with Sue Hovey

In My Skin chronicles Brittney Griner‘s life growing up in Houston, Texas and her emergence as one of the most recognizable and talented stars of women’s college and professional basketball. Her book is my latest in the LUYC my reading escapade series.

Griner describes growing up ostracized and bullied by her peers because she was considered unusual looking for a girl (i.e. tall, masculine, a tomboy). When Griner was recruited by Baylor University, this was a signal that basketball was a place where her size, strength, and athletic abilities were embraced. Throughout Griner also describes being such a dominant force on the court that many teams strategically fouled her in order to undermine her game.

Being a successful athlete who is openly lesbian, Griner spends much of the book describing this experience as a paradox. For instance, in college, Griner was encouraged by her coach to keep her sexuality “private” so as to reflect a “positive” image of Baylor (whose policies are rooted in Christianity). The resentment and anger at being put in this position is candidly discussed.

While the writing of In My Skin is quite simplistic, the messaging is really important. Self-love, honesty, resilience, authenticity, and strength of character are what Griner wants us to take away from her story. She recognizes her position as a role model for women athletes, especially those who are LGBTQ identified, and writes her story specifically for this audience, which is generous and really impressive. It made me appreciate her, and the book, all the more.

The Out Field: Gay Athletes Talk About Pro Sports

Came across this video today that was put together by People Magazine. Athletes featured (in order of appearance): Michael Sam (Gridiron Football), Wade Davis II (Gridiron Football), Billy Bean (Baseball), Brittney Griner (Basketball), Lianne Sanderson (Soccer), and Joanna Lohman (Soccer).

The video was published in May 2014, on the heels of Michael Sam‘s historic draft into the NFL by the St. Louis Rams. Since then, Sam has been released by the Rams and is currently on the practice squad for the Dallas Cowboys. Wade Davis II is the Executive Director of the You Can Play Project, Billy Bean retired from baseball in 1995 and in July 2014 was hired by the MLB as an ambassador for inclusion, Brittney Griner was the #1 WBNA Draft Pick in 2013 and recently won the 2014 WNBA Championship with the Phoenix Mercury, and Lianne Sanderson and Joanna Lohman both play professional soccer in the National Women’s Soccer League for the Boston Breakers (and are a couple!). They founded JoLi Academy and are a part of the GO! Athletes Network.