Students produce video to assure LGBT athletes: 'You Can Play'

Connecticut College student-athletes are dedicating themselves to eradicating homophobia in sports by joining the You Can Play team, a social activism campaign aimed at ensuring equality, respect and safety for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) athletes.

You Can Play has partnered with a number of professional and collegiate athletic teams and leagues — particularly the National Hockey League (NHL) and many of its star players — as well as popular musical acts such as Macklemore and Fun. Supporters have created a series of videos posted to the You Can Play website that send a clear message: “If you can play, you can play.”

Joining the You Can Play team was the idea of Lowell Abbott ’14, a member of the women’s soccer and lacrosse teams, after she heard one of the group’s founders — Patrick Burke, director of player safety for the NHL — speak at a conference over the summer.

Inspired by the You Can Play message, she rallied her fellow Camels to participate in and produce an unscripted video that has been featured on the You Can Play website. The video features student-athletes from many of Connecticut College’s teams speaking about the importance of creating a welcoming environment for all students, regardless of sexual orientation.

“I hope student-athletes who are considering applying to the College will see the video and understand our cultural values before getting to campus, and those affected more personally by the video will come here with the knowledge that Connecticut College athletics are a safe and welcoming space regardless of sexual orientation,” Abbott said.

The students also attended an hour-long workshop about the importance of creating a welcoming environment for their teammates on and off the playing field. 

Professor Jen Manion, who directs Connecticut College’s LGBTQ Center, said that in general athletics have lagged behind other social institutions in addressing homophobia. She said years of hard work and perseverance will be necessary to change sports culture, but she called the You Can Play effort — and the College’s video — “an awesome start.”

The video premiered at an LGBTQ Center event Dec. 9 that celebrated the College’s recent recognition as one of the most LGBT-friendly college campuses in the country by Campus Pride and Huffington Post.

The event also recognized the commitment to the LGBTQ Center of President Leo I. Higdon, Jr., who is retiring at the end of the year, and Tracee Reiser, associate dean for community learning.  The keynote speaker was Urvashi Vaid, a community organizer, writer, attorney and pioneer in the LGBT and social justice movements.

Higdon helped establish the LGBTQ Center on campus in 2006 and called it one of the biggest achievements during his presidency.

“We made a conscious effort to make this a welcoming community for everyone and we pride ourselves as an institution on making great strides in that area," he said. "With the growth of the LGBTQ Center and initiatives like the You Can Play video, I see an even brighter future.”

December 16, 2013