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Just Jillian... | Victory!

Almost six months ago, I started on this journey of blogging and have quickly come to realize how the news, perspectives, and my own feelings can change instantaneously and with such change comes the challenge of focusing on just one topic to share with you. Based on the title of this post, you might think I’m going to talk about some historic sport achievement or amazing feat that has occurred in the last month but instead I take a step away from sport for a moment to peel back the layers and expose a little more about myself.

Today was a historic day that has a real impact on my future. Today in California (where I reside), Chief Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that Prop 8 is unconstitutional on both Equal Protection and Due Process grounds. In other words, he struck down California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. Although the decision will not immediately lead to any new same-sex marriages being performed in California, it does provide a foundation to build upon for full marriage equality, which many suspect will result in a decision from the Supreme Court. As Judge Walker wrote in his decision, "Proposition 8 cannot withstand any level of scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause. […] Excluding same-sex couples from marriage is simply not rationally related to a legitimate state interest." Thus, today marks not just a victory for California but also for the additional 45 states who do not allow same-sex couples to marry.

So, you might be thinking what does this have to do with sport? Well, on personal level, nothing. Wait…I take that back, I can make a personal connection to sport…

I have been an out athlete—loosely defined as me staying active outdoors and at my local Y while always being up for a little competition—since the summer after my freshman year of college nearly a decade ago. Although the coming out process never truly ends, through the years I have come to cherish the comfort in my own skin to be and express who I truly am and most importantly, who I love. That lucky woman is Stephanie Roth—my DP (domestic partner), partner in crime, and best friend—who is in the picture with me. She makes me laugh, she loves me unconditionally, and she makes me step up to the plate as we go through this journey called life together. My life has not been the same since the day I meet her and I can’t imagine my life without her. In fact, we are currently planning what opposite-sex couples would call a wedding while we prefer to call it a celebration of our love and commitment, especially since we don’t have the right to marry. After almost seven years together, there is no doubt that we are committed to one another and want to share the rest of our life together. And, for us, it’s also time to share that love and commitment with our closest friends and family as we prepare for the next chapter in our life—kids.
 
All this is to say that my partner and I are no different than most of our friends, which interestingly are mainly straight, in that we want to expand our family and live our life for more than just ourselves. When I think about the possibility of brining another human being into the world, I’m brought back to reality about the world we currently live in. A country that provides us with so many freedoms yet still continues to discriminate the same people it claims to protect. I’m one of those individuals.

My parents broke the model as an interracial couple just less than a decade after the 1967 Loving v. Virginia decision that outlawed anti-miscegenation laws in America. I’m proud that I and many others I know have the strength to continue to break the mold as open and out lesbian couples. However, I say it’s time for my sisters in uniform—sports uniforms that is—stand up and share their stories. And, in those stores including the ones they love, regardless of their gender. It’s time to break the silence and cloak of invisibility that raids women’s sports on this topic. Although this is just one piece of the puzzle, it also requires an end to the fear-mongering about strong women athletes being stereotyped as lesbians. As Pat Griffin states in her 1998 groundbreaking book, Strong Women, Deep Closets:

The closets in sport are so deep because so many women are hiding there. These deep closets are full of not only lesbians, but also heterosexual women who fear that women’s sport is always one lesbian scandal away from ruin. These strong women coach and compete in the shadow of a demonized stereotype so reviled that all women in sport are held hostage by the threat of being called a lesbian (p. x).
 

As I celebrate today’s victory, I’m reminded of the women I interviewed for my thesis and think of the handful of women athletes who have publically come out, which are listed on Outsports list of “Out Athletes.” I hope that one day that list is so long it’s not necessary anymore. Until then, it’s clear there is more work that needs to be done. So, I leave you with this to ponder, “Does everything have to be the same for things to be equal” (hooks, 2007, p. 147) with thoughts of “At Last” sung by Beyoncé (originally recorded by Etta James) playing in the background.


CALL 2 ACTION: It’s time for the Women’s Rugby World Cup and to support the USA Women Eagles! Didn’t know the US even had a women’s rugby team?!? Well then, find out more about the Women’s National Rugby Team as they prepare for the Women's Rugby World Cup in London!
 
Jillian Ross

Jillian Ross is a researcher, writer and learner determined to make a difference in the world. Her work has focused on Title IX and gender equity; the intersections of identity (e.g. race, gender, sexual orientation, class, etc.), especially that of Black queer female student-athletes; creating safe schools and spaces for students and teachers; and more recently, educational and teacher leadership with a focus on school leadership for social justice. Although she no longer participates in competitive sports, Ross still considers herself an athlete. Her love of sport began with basketball and track, and has expanded to her current love of hiking in Tilden, working out at the YMCA, and biking around the Bay Area. Ross works and resides in Berkeley, CA with her partner of 7 years.

Ross writes a women-focused blog addressing the just & unjust in the world at jillian4justice.wordpress.com.