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.”