Arts & Entertainment
GVSU graduate Joe Miller produced a video featuring GVSU Athletic Director Tim Selgo (pictured) and several student athletes welcoming all students asserting If you can play, you can play.
GVSU Publicly Affirms Its LGBT Athletes
By Carol Tanis
Originally printed 9/19/2013 (Issue 2138 - Between The Lines News)
ALLENDALE - LGBT athletes at Grand Valley State University should no longer have to worry about their sexual orientation or gender identity keeping them off the playing field. The University's athletic department has joined You Can Play, a national advocacy campaign working for equality for LGBT athletes in sports. "Locker rooms should be safe and sports venues should be free from homophobia," is the campaign's message. "Athletes should be judged on their talent, heart, and work ethic, not their sexual orientation."
Colleges and universities across the country, as well as teams from professional sports leagues have the joined the You Can Play campaign, which encourages teams to publicly state their affirmation of gay athletes by producing a video with that message. Grand Valley is the first NCAA Division II institution to join the You Can Play campaign.
The move to join the campaign was the vision of GVSU graduate Joe Miller who, as part of joining the project, produced a short video featuring GVSU Athletic Director Tim Selgo and several student athletes. Selgo states in the video, "At GVSU, you are not judged on your sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, but rather on your commitment to the team and our university. If you can play, you can play."
Miller is currently a graduate student at GVSU where he works as a grad assistant in the Athletic Advising Office. He said the video was shown in August on campus at a season-kick-off event including student athletes from all of the university's teams where it received rousing support from the students and coaches. Miller is especially proud that Selgo was willing to go on camera voicing his backing of the project.
"It's huge to have the head of athletics up there saying the words 'lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender,'" Miller said.
Majoring in sports management at GVSU, Miller said he was closeted during his first three years at the school, which diminished his college experience. Later he did come out and became an intern at the University's LGBT Resource Center. While working there he learned about the You Can Play campaign and thought "we can do this at Grand Valley." He approached the student athletic advisory committee, which said go for it. He hopes this public declaration by the athletic department will enhance the college experience for LBGT student athletes so they can compete without the worry of discrimination or harassment in the locker room or playing field.
Miller credits the LGBT Resource Center on GVSU's campus for providing an affirming educational environment and the inspiration leading to his awareness of the You Can Play campaign.
Director of the Resource Center Colette Seguin Beighley says it's clear from the support this video has received from the athletic department that GVSU is committed to addressing homophobia in sports culture. She adds, "This is an ongoing conversation and there remains much work to be done. However, this kind of mandate from our athletic director, along with his powerful statement within the video, empowers that work and sets the tone for the future. We're grateful for the collaborative relationship the LGBT Resource Center has with GVSU Athletics."
The video was shot and edited by GVSU film and video graduate Mark Switzer who said that he's often heard athletes say they wouldn't have made anti-gay comments in the locker room if they had known their teammates were gay so he hopes the video will raise awareness of how language hurts others.
"This video is preventative in nature, making people who were unaware of the effect of their language more aware," Switzer said. "But I hope people realize this isn't a cure. We can offer lip service or say on paper that we care about inclusion of the LGBT community, but actually being that way is something completely different. It reminds people that we have these policies here and everyone is to be held accountable for any homophobic or transphobic, sexist actions."GVSU's You Can Play video featuring University Athletic Director Tom Selgo and several students can be viewed at http://www.gvsu.edu/lgbtrc/-you-can-play-video-154.htm.
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