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Young athletes on competing after coming out

Morant, Newman prep for college after winning Team DC scholarships

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Team DC college scholarships, gay news, Washington Blade
Freedom Morant and Jack Newman won Team DC college scholarships. (Photos courtesy the subjects)

Last spring at the Team DC Night of Champions, six openly LGBT local high school student-athletes stepped forward to receive their Team DC college scholarships.

Several of the awardees took to the podium and shared their stories to a rapt audience of adult LGBT athletes. Their stories were filled with acceptance, support and a love of sports. Supporting them from the sidelines that night were the parents of the young athletes.

Freedom Morant grew up in Oxon Hill, Md., and began her athletic career at the age of three in basketball and eventually soccer. A near-drowning experience in Florida at age five led to her mother putting her in swim lessons.

This fall, Morant will leave for Frostburg State University where she has earned a swimming scholarship. The road to getting there included some obstacles, including overcoming a learning disability, but sports were a big part of the journey.

“Sports have helped me to get to where I want to be, and that’s in college,” says Morant. “Playing sports has also been a stress reliever. I like that competing gives me the opportunity to express myself.”

A recent graduate of Friendly High School, Morant was a multi-sport athlete. One year in tennis and basketball, three years in softball and four years in swimming. She was also a manager for the volleyball team.

In addition to high school sports, she was competing in club swimming, first at Elite Rays Swim Club and then at Manta Dive N Aquatics.

“I feel free when I am swimming, like nothing else in life matters,” Morant says. “It’s a comfortable home and I was meant to be in the water.”

Morant was out to her teammates in high school and says she wasn’t really challenged by anyone because there are a lot of out high schoolers in Prince Georges County. Her mom has been there all along, volunteering and cheering at competitions.

“When I came out to her, she said she already knew and was just waiting for me to tell her,” says Morant. “I couldn’t ask for a stronger support system.”

Her mom accompanied her to receive her Team DC scholarship and Morant was excited to meet other out athletes.

“While I had classmates who were out, there weren’t a lot of out athletes,” Morant says. “It was a really comfortable experience at the awards ceremony, and I was grateful to be there.”

This summer, Morant is lifeguarding, teaching swim lessons and training in the pool every day. She plans to study early childhood education at Frostburg, specifically K-3.

“I like working with kids and the idea of educating them in their formative years,” says Morant. “They need a good support system and I want them to be able to achieve their potential.”

At the end of August, Morant will leave for Frostburg where she will live in a dorm with other athletes. Team dynamics will play a factor, but she hopes to specialize in the 100 butterfly, 50 and 100 freestyles and the 200 individual medley.

“I am excited to be able to compete on the collegiate level,” Morant says. “I have looked at the school records and I want to see how far I can take my swimming.”

Jack Newman played on the girls’ soccer team at George C. Marshall High School through his junior year before deciding he wanted to focus on club soccer. A goalkeeper, he tried out for a boy’s travel soccer team and made the cut.

Growing up in Vienna, Va., Newman participated in soccer, basketball and wrestling. He found sports to be a great physical outlet for his energy levels.

Wanting a higher level of competition, Newman began attending summer sports camps at age 10 and was competing in basketball and soccer on girls’ club teams.

He was also on the high school wrestling team, which was separated by weight class rather than gender. He chose not to begin using hormones and instead relied on building muscle through weight training.

“I am cis passing and I didn’t want the acne side effects that can occur with hormones. I don’t feel like I was at a disadvantage in wrestling,” says Newman. “I have intentions of eventually going on testosterone, but I want to do it on my own time.”

He says that living in a progressive area has fostered a respectful transition. His only bad experiences came at the hands of opposing sports teams.

For the past two months, Newman has been playing in the Summer of Freedom League, which is hosted by the LGBT-based Federal Triangles Soccer Club.

“It is a much more comfortable experience to play sports with other like-minded people,” Newman says. “The sense of community is much stronger in LGBT sports.

Newman was also accompanied by his parents at the Team DC scholarship reception and says they have given him unconditional love and support.

“I liked hearing the stories of the other athletes that spoke at the awards reception and it was great having family there,” says Newman. “My dad is gay. In his own conversation where he came out to his brothers and my grandma, my grandma also came out. Home is a very welcoming environment.”

The same welcoming environment will be waiting for him when he begins attending Virginia Commonwealth University. At freshman orientation, in addition to being asked his name, he was also asked his pronoun and gender identity.

“The school is progressive, and it feels very inclusive there,” Newman says. “There was even an LGBTQ+ mixer during orientation.”

His experience at VCU will begin with a week-long Ram Camp leadership training where he will acclimate to the campus climate. Newman, who also won a SMYAL Youth Leadership scholarship, will be bringing his own experiences in from working as a SMYAL Peer Health Fellow this summer and serving as a youth ambassador to NOVA Pride.

His assigned housing for the fall semester is an apartment suite with other trans men and he expects to major in women and gender sexuality studies. He is also interested in producing circuit parties and will return to D.C. in October to stage crew people at the Miss Adams Morgan Pageant.

“I will be continuing my sports career at VCU by joining an intramural soccer team and checking out Stonewall Kickball Richmond,” says Newman. “I am looking forward to what the future holds.”

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Sports

Washington Football Team embraces Pride Night Out

‘Football is for everyone’

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The first-ever Pride Night OUT at the Washington Football Team is set for Thursday.

Team DC launched its ‘Night OUT’ series in 2005 as an LGBTQ community night with the Washington Nationals. 

Over the years, they added events with other local professional sports teams – DC United, Washington Mystics, Washington Capitals, Washington Wizards, Washington Kastles, Washington Spirit, Old Glory DC, Washington Prodigy and Citi Open.

On Thursday, Sept. 16, Team DC will host the first annual Pride Night OUT at the Washington Football Team marking their first partnership with the National Football League.

“We had tried reaching out in the past but eventually made the decision that we would not engage until the name was changed,” says Brent Minor, founder and executive director of Team DC. “We don’t want these community nights to just be a monetary transaction, we want to build bridges and encourage inclusion.”

This week’s game is the Washington Football Team’s Week 2 matchup against the New York Giants and will be televised on Thursday Night Football. 

Along with Pride Night OUT, it will also be a celebration of Latinx Heritage Month and Pro Football Hall of Famer Bobby Mitchell, who was a pioneer and trailblazer for equality and civil rights during his years with the team as a player and executive.

Frontline workers from the LGBTQ community including Whitman-Walker Health, Food & Friends and medical providers will be recognized and there will be a performance by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington’s gospel ensemble of ‘Lift Every Voice.’

The new relationship with the Washington Football Team began when they reached out to Capital Pride and Team DC with a request for a cultural competency training for WFT staffers.

“We spoke with about 75 members of their staff, and it wasn’t just a window dressing exercise — people were engaged,” Minor says. “During the training, Night OUT came up, which led to a discussion on corporate perspective regarding the LGBTQ community.”

Another cultural competency training is expected to occur in the future and the Washington Football Team has pledged to have a yet to be determined role at Capital Pride in 2022.

In August 2020, former NFL player Jason Wright was hired by the Washington Football Team to become their team president, where he leads their business operations, financing, and marketing strategies. 

“We went through a leadership change when Jason Wright was hired and the direction of our outreach will be much broader than it was in the past,” says Joey Colby-Begovich, vice president of guest experience, operations for the Washington Football Team. “We want to be intentional in celebrating our communities beyond the traditional football fans and that includes people of color and marginalized communities. Football is for everyone.”

The DMV region is comprised of a broad spectrum of people who represent the changing demographics of our country. Establishing connections to communities where people from different backgrounds and sexual orientations can find commonality is important for any organization interested in social responsibility.

“We are hoping that we can cultivate a broader fan base that feels safe and comfortable in our space. That includes stronger and deeper relationships with our communities and opportunities in our employee base — we want to be involved in the discussion,” Colby-Begovich says. “The support that we shared for Carl Nassib coming out is an example of our direction. There is change happening.”

The excitement is palpable from the D.C. LGBTQ community as more than 100 tickets have already been sold for the inaugural Pride Night OUT at the Washington Football Team.

“I think back to the beginning when we first established a relationship with the Washington Nationals. Years later after the mass shooting at Pulse in Orlando, they reached out and asked, ‘What can we do,’” says Minor. “Establishing these relationships is important and who knows where this leads when you are embraced in a positive way? When you can break down a barrier between the LGBTQ community and the NFL, that’s rarefied air.”

Tickets for Pride Night OUT at the Washington Football Team can be found at teamdc.org.

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If a nation? ‘Team LGBTQ’ ranked 11th in medal tally at Tokyo Olympics

182 publicly out gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and nonbinary athletes were in Tokyo for the Summer Olympic Games

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Los Angeles Blade Graphic

TOKYO – Delayed by the coronavirus pandemic by one year and then held under tight restrictions including no spectators or cheering fans in the stands, the Tokyo Olympics drew to a close Sunday with one group of athletes, LGBTQ+ Olympian competitors, having made historic gains.

Affectionately labeled “Team LGBTQ” by OutSports magazine, at least 182 publicly out gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and nonbinary athletes were in Tokyo for the Summer Olympic Games, more than triple the number who participated at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games, the magazine reported.

“In fact, if the LGBTQ Olympians competed as their own country — affectionately labeled “Team LGBTQ” by Outsports — they would rank 11thin the total medal count (right behind France and before Canada), with 32 team and individual medals: 11 gold, 12 silver and nine bronze,” reflected NBC Out.

30 different countries were represented by at least one publicly out LGBTQ+ athlete covering 34 sports, including the first trans Olympians, Team New Zealand’s weightlifter, Team USA’s Reserve BMX racer Chelsea Wolfe, and Team Canada’s Quinn, the 25-year-old, soccer player who goes by a single name and uses the pronouns “they” and “their.”

The most notable Olympic medal win was that of Canadian Women’s Soccer midfielder Quinn, who became the first openly transgender, non-binary athlete to win an Olympic gold medal in another trailblazing moment at the Tokyo Games for the marginalised LGBTQ+ community.

Photo via Instagram

In another Olympic triumph, 27-year-old British diver Tom Daley secured his first Olympic Gold medal alongside teammate Matty Lee winning the gold with a score of 471.81 in the men’s synchronized diving narrowly besting the defending champions, China’s Cao Yuan and Chen Aisen by just 1.23 points. For Daley it was his fourth career Olympic medal including a Bronze Medal won in the the Men’s 10m platform completion at Tokyo as well.

Outsports and NBC Out published the following list of medalists;

The gold medalists were Brazilian swimmer Ana Marcela Cunha for the 10-kilometer event; French martial artist Amandine Buchard for mixed team judo; Venezuelan track and field athlete Yulimar Rojas for the triple jump; Irish boxer Kellie Harrington; New Zealand rower Emma Twigg; U.S. women’s basketball team members Sue Bird, Chelsea Gray, Brittney Griner, Breanna Stewart and Diana Taurasi; American 3-on-3 basketball player Stefanie Dolson; Canadian women’s soccer team members Quinn, Kadeisha Buchanan, Erin McLeod, Kailen Sheridan and Stephanie Labbe; French handball players Amandine Leynaud and Alexandra Lacrabère; New Zealand rugby players Gayle Broughton, Ruby Tui, Kelly Brazier and Portia Woodman; and, of course, British diver Tom Daley, who finally took home the gold for synchronized diving at his fourth Games.

NBC Out’s Dan Avery noted that after she earned silver for the Philippines, featherweight boxer Nesthy Petecio told reporters, “I am proud to be part of the LGBTQ community,” according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer

“Let’s go, fight!” she added. “This fight is also for the LGBTQ community.”

“The presence and performance of these out athletes has been a huge story at these Games,” Outsports founder Cyd Zeigler told NBC Out in an email. “30% of all the out LGBTQ Olympians in Tokyo won a medal, which means they didn’t just show up, they also performed at a very high level.”

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Out British diver Tom Daley takes Bronze medal in men’s 10m platform

“I owe this medal to so many people. I’m standing on the podium but there are so many people behind the medal.”

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British Olympic Diver Tom Daley wins Bronze via Team Great Britain Twitter

KASAI RINKAI PARK, Tokyo- After tough competition in the Men’s 10m platform diving from China’s Cao Yuan who picked up the Gold Medal and his teammate Yang Jian cinching the number two spot with a Silver Medal, 27-year-old British diver Tom Daley secured a Bronze Medal win with a score of 548.25

This is the second Olympic Bronze Medal for the Plymouth, England native, in individual diving completion since he won bronze at the London Games in 2012. Daley and his teammate Daniel Goodfellow won a Bronze Medal in the 10m synchronised at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

With this Bronze win, it will be his fourth overall career Olympic Games medal win after taking the Gold two weeks ago in the Tokyo games along with his British teammate diving partner Matty Lee. Daley and Lee winning the gold with a score of 471.81 in the men’s synchronized diving narrowly besting the defending champions, China’s Cao Yuan and Chen Aisen by just 1.23 points.

During a post event press conference Daley said; “I am so happy that this Olympics has gone the way it has. I feel like a different athlete, I feel like I’ve been through so many different things over the years.”

“At the end of May, I didn’t even know if I was going to make it to these Games. I tore my meniscus and had knee surgery, I always dreamed I’d be fit enough to come back and dive at these Olympics,” he continued adding, “If someone had told me I was going to win a gold and a bronze, I probably would have laughed in their face. I owe this medal to so many people. I’m standing on the podium but there are so many people behind the medal.”

Reflecting on his medal win the diver noted, “Once you’re in the final, that’s what I love. I love competition when it counts, there was great competition with the two Chinese divers, they pulled away when I missed it a little bit on the fourth dive,” the apparently thrilled Daley smiled and added, “I’m extremely happy to come away with another Olympic medal.”

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