Friday, October 27, 2017

Today in 2005: WNBA Star Sheryl Swoopes Comes Out
Sheryl Swoopes is a retired American professional basketball player. She was the first player to be signed in the WNBA, is a three-time WNBA MVP, and was named one of the league's Top 15 Players of All Time at the 2011 WNBA All-Star Game. Swoopes has won three Olympic gold medals. She was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016. In 2017, she was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.

Swoopes was married from June 1995 to 1999 to her high school sweetheart, with whom she has one son, Jordan Eric Jackson, born in 1997.

Today, October 27, in 2005, Swoopes announced she was gay, becoming one of the highest-profile athletes in a team sport to do so publicly. She said, "it doesn't change who I am. I can't help who I fall in love with. No one can. ... Discovering I'm gay just sort of happened much later in life. Being intimate with [Alisa] or any other woman never entered my mind. At the same time, I'm a firm believer that when you fall in love with somebody, you can't control that." She and her partner, former basketball player and Houston Comets assistant coach Alisa Scott, together raised Swoopes' son.
The couple broke up in 2011. 

Swoopes later that year got engaged to Chris Unclesho, a longtime male friend. This prompted some controversy described in an article by Maya Rupert, Policy Director for he Center for Lesbian Rights in a posting on Huffington Post:
Since her announcement, some people have questioned her sexual orientation. The news of her engagement has prompted some negative coverage and reactions that accuse her of, essentially, not being gay anymore. One headline calls Swoopes “NSGAA,” or “not so gay after all,” suggesting that because Swoopes isn’t currently in a same-sex relationship, she was never “really” a lesbian or she is “no longer” a lesbian. The problem is that this approach relies solely on her current relationship status to define her identity.

It’s a popular way to conceptualize sexual orientation, but an entirely incorrect and harmful one. The idea that at any given time, a person’s sexual orientation is a function of their current romantic relationship erases bisexuality completely, misunderstands how identity works, and simply misses the point. This conflation of a person’s current romantic relationship with their identity is a big part of why the “B” in LGBT has remained virtually invisible in the sports world and in the broader culture. Even as Sheryl may choose to not use a label of any kind, it is time to know that bisexual people — yes, even in sports — are a reality and valued members of our communities.

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