Mindfully Handling Homophobic Language
The authors and guests on this site have generally discussed how to use mindfulness and other sports psychology mental tools in sports practice and games. One important and often overlooked topic that is a component of mindfulness is being aware of using language that is inclusive in all athletic environments, including the locker rooms, the fields, the courts and the pools.
“Words are like eggs dropped from great heights; you can no more call them back than ignore the mess they leave when they fall.”
― Jodi Picoult,
A recent article in USA Today addressed the topic of athletes, mental health and the stress associated with an athlete who decides to come out. Occasionally, athletes and coaches may use slurs, such as that is so gay, with little or no awareness of how teammates and others, who may be gay or lesbian, might be digesting that inside themselves. One of the most important steps coaches and all athletes can do to support an athlete through this process is to create a mindful environment where such slurs or other derogatory language are not tolerated.
Too often in the past, no one has said anything. The silence that follows speaks volumes to anyone sensitive to what may have been said that is offensive.
Cyd Zeigler is the co-founder of Outsports.com and has helped to bring the topic out of the closet. He has allowed athletes to share personal stories of coming out or experiences with reactions when teammates find out about a peer being gay/lesbian. For example, the reaction to Jason Collins coming out was positive among not just pro basketball players but other athletes as well. The landscape is changing and moving more toward positive and accepting attitudes and behaviors.
The sad truth is some people have died over this issue and we know words can make a difference. To begin to speak up if you hear derogatory remarks. There is a new movement known as Project Semicolon and it relates to mental health or for anyone who is struggling. But it can also relate to this topic since some athletes are struggling with coming out right now and may even be experiencing depression or anxiety because of it. The idea behind Project Semicolon symbol (;) is that life gets better and the story is not done. It is about having hope that things can change for the better. I believe this is true and we can all help with this. Just start by being mindful of your language.