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When it comes to LGBTQ acceptance, female athletes are years ahead of the men.

As stigma surrounding gay athletes has diminished, men remain reluctant to come out.

When it comes to LGBTQ acceptance, female athletes are years ahead of the men.

An estimated 50 LGBTQ athletes from around the world will compete during the 2016 Rio Olympics.

It makes these 2016 games, quite literally, the gayest Olympics in modern history with more than double the number that Outsports reported participating in the 2012 games.

What does this tell us? Nothing, really. It's not as though there's been some recent flood of gay and bisexual athletes into the world of elite sports over the past four years. Rather, it's far more likely that LGBTQ athletes have been part of the Olympics all along, just closeted.


That we're seeing such an increase in the number of out athletes is a testament to an overall increased acceptance of LGBTQ people. Obviously, the level of acceptance can vary wildly by country, but for the most part, things are going in a pretty positive direction. After all, being able to be true to yourself is a good thing, whether you're an athlete, accountant, or astronaut.

Four of the 12 members of the U.S. women's national basketball team are gay.

Elena Delle Donne, Angel McCoughtry, Brittney Griner, and Seimone Augustus are four of the greatest basketball players in the world. They also happen to be gay. In the world of women's basketball, coming out of the closet is treated as pretty minor news.

"It’s been normal," Delle Donne told USA Today in reference to the public reception she got after coming out in early August. "Nothing crazy. Obviously a couple of people wanting to talk about it here and there. A lot of support. It’s been really nothing too crazy, which is great. That’s where I hope our society moves to, where it’s not a story. It’s normal."

Delle Donne (#11) and McCoughtry of the United States run up the floor against Serbia during the Rio 2016 Olympics. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images.

This is a stark contrast to the men's team. Not only are there zero out gay men on the men's national team, but there aren't currently any in the NBA as a whole.

Of the NBA's 450 players, zero publicly identify as gay or bisexual. In the league's history, just one player, Jason Collins, has come out while still an active player. Collins, who came out as gay in 2013 after more than a decade in the league, retired at the end of the 2013-2014 season.

Collins (#98) of the Brooklyn Nets celebrates after making a basket during a game against the Denver Nuggets in 2014. Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images.

While it's true that there aren't any publicly out gay or bisexual players currently playing in the NBA, that doesn't mean they don't exist.

Statistically speaking, it's highly unlikely that the league is without at least a few gay or bisexual players currently holding roster spots across the league. There are bound to be at least a handful out there.

"As a player, I’ve been that person where it’s really hard to come out. It’s super hard. You’re just not comfortable with it. You’re worried about not being accepted, being rejected, being cast out. It’s tough. It’s really tough." — Brittney Griner, WNBA

In 2013, NBA hall of fame player Charles Barkley told radio host Dan Patrick, "Everybody (in the league) has played with a gay teammate."

Former player John Amaechi (#13) came out as a gay man long after his NBA career ended. Photo by Jess Kowalsky/AFP/Getty Images.

Why is there such a disparity in the stigma surrounding gay athletes between men's and women's sports? That's what some of the top women's players want to know.

"I would love to see more (come out) on the men’s side, more players feel comfortable to come out," Griner told USA Today. "But I also understand it because as a player, I’ve been that person where it’s really hard to come out. It’s super hard. You’re just not comfortable with it. You’re worried about not being accepted, being rejected, being cast out. It’s tough. It’s really tough."

Griner of the United States and Maimouna Diarra of Senegal play during the Rio 2016 Olympics. Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images.

"I would love to see that (sort of support in the NBA), if there are any (gay men). No one should have to hide who they are," Delle Donne added.

Delle Donne reacts to a call against Serbia at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images.

When it comes to LGBTQ visibility in sports, women historically have been further along than men.

"Female athletes have been ahead of the men in terms of coming out publicly for years," Cyd Zeigler of Outsports said in an e-mail. "Part of that is that there are more lesbian and bisexual women in elite-level sports than there are gay and bisexual men. That means not just more athletes and coaches to come out, but also a larger support structure within the sport for LGBT women than the men. Plus you have an overall broader cultural acceptance of gay and bisexual women than men have."

Zeigler, who pretty much wrote the book on LGBTQ athletes, thinks it'll only be a matter of time before male athletes catch up to women in terms of coming out.

The good news is that by all indications, the NBA appears to be fully supportive of future gay or bisexual players.

Between its handling of Collins' coming out and the 2017 NBA All-Star game, the league is putting together a pretty LGBTQ-friendly appearance. After the state of North Carolina passed a law that many had labelled anti-LGBTQ (specifically, it targeted transgender individuals), the league warned that without substantial changes to the law, they would have no choice but to pull the game, slated to be played in Charlotte, from the state. The state didn't make the necessary changes, and in July, the NBA announced that it would follow through on its threat, moving the game to another city.

"While we recognize that the NBA cannot choose the law in every city, state, and country in which we do business, we do not believe we can successfully host our All-Star festivities in Charlotte in the climate created by HB2," the league said in a statement.

Larry Tanenbaum presents Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan a jersey signifying Charlotte as the host city for the 2017 All-Star game in February 2016. Months later, the league stripped the city of the game in response to the state's anti-LGBTQ law. Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images.

Hopefully, as time goes on, stigma surrounding gay athletes will continue to diminish. No one should have to hide who they are.

Collins will not go down in history as the only NBA player to be out as gay during his career. The question is whether the next athlete to follow in his footsteps is already in the league or not.

Seton Hall's Derrick Gordon became the first out gay NCAA Division I men's basketball player when he came out. Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images.

In the meantime, maybe the men could take a lesson or two from the ladies.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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