Brittney Griner: Out & Proud

by Yesha Callahan

Brittney Griner

Yesterday I saw two types of sports related articles, both of which included references to athlete’s and their sexuality. First there was the Kerry Rhodes “outing” done by his former assistant/alleged lover, Mr. Hollywood.  I only  have one word for this so-called “assistant”, who felt betrayed by Rhodes when he denied being gay, MESSY. Sometimes I don’t understand why people feel the need to lead a dual life by being in the closet, but I also understand it’s their life and they can lead it anyway they please.  But to be messy and go on a gossip station and air his dirty laundry was uncalled for. The social media reaction to the mess was equally disturbing, but I’m sure you can figure out on your own the defamatory remarks about Rhodes’ alleged lifestyle. And this is exactly why some people continue to stay “in”.

Brittney Griner, the star Baylor basketball player on her way to the WNBA, is a different story. In a recent video interview with Sports Illustrated, Griner discussed openly for the first time her own sexuality. SI host Maggie Gray asked the question, “Why is there a difference between men and women in that issue?”, the issue being sexuality.

“I really couldn’t give an answer on why that’s so different,” Griner said. “Being one that’s out, it’s just being who you are. Again, like I said, just be who you are. Don’t worry about what other people are going to say, because they’re always going to say something, but, if you’re just true to yourself, let that shine through. Don’t hide who you really are.”

“It really wasn’t too difficult,” Griner added in response to a question on how difficult the decision was to come out.

“I wouldn’t say I was hiding or anything like that,” the former Baylor University star continued.  ”I’ve always been open about who I am and my sexuality. So, it wasn’t hard at all. If I can show that I’m out and I’m fine and everything’s OK, then hopefully the younger generation will definitely feel the same way.”

It seems as though in our society, there’s less stigma attached to women athletes being out, especially when there are already so many stereotypes about women in certain sports to begin with.  I can’t remember how many times people assumed because I played a certain sport that I was gay. But I wasn’t one to get offended when asked, I just brushed it off as their own ignorance. In college, there were lesbian basketball players and were there just as many straight ones.  For people to say, “Oh well, I figured Brittney was gay”, is just about as ignorant as publicly outing someone.

I applaud Brittney for speaking honestly about her sexuality, but to you “Mr. Hollywood”, you sir get the gas face with your messy ass.



  • Jan

    And in other news
    Water is wet.
    Grass is green.

  • Ravi

    Wow! Didn’t see that coming

  • Dallas

    Both of the comments above me, proved the author’s point.

    Your stereotypes for what is “gay” are just as bad as homophobic comments.

  • Ravi

    It seems you might not have understood the author’s point — less stigma for women athletes coming out than for men. And if her coming out surprised you, than that has to do with your heterosexist assumptions of heterosexuality.

  • Mademoiselle

    I’ll play devil’s advocate and take the unpopular position to say that there are some discernible (if subtle) features to gay men and women that allow people to distinguish them from heteros. It’s no different than being able to identify someone’s heritage by their facial features, or their nationality by their accent. If the belief that people are born gay holds true and it’s embedded in your DNA, it has the ability to stand out in a crowd. If the belief that gay is a choice holds true, it stands to reason that a gay person’s behavior/mannerisms would stand out from social standards. All animals, including people, have the ability to identify what differentiates members of their species. It’s instinctual; and I don’t think it’s anything to be offended over since our differences are what make us unique, which should be acknowledged, if not celebrated. That’s just my opinion.

  • myblackfriendsays

    Let me start by saying that I am coming from a place of heterosexual privilege.

    With all the talk of the parallels between the gay rights movement and the civil rights movement for black americans, I find the topic of outing to be quite interesting.

    Why should a person get all the legal benefits of being an oppressed minority, but at the same time have the ability to hide or show that part of their identity when it is convenient for them? One of the biggest differences between black people and gay people is that (most) black people cannot hide their identity in order to get a job, find a place to live, etc.

    Additionally, a person couldn’t be outed for being gay unless they were engaging in behaviors that would lead others to believe that they might be gay (like being in a relationship with a person of the same sex.) The first athlete you mentioned, if he is gay it would appear that he wants to have his cake and eat it too. No one can out you if they don’t have any evidence to out you with. It would also seem like a lot of celebrities that have been outed (like Neil Patrick Harris and Portia de Rossi) are even more popular and seem much happier than they were when they were in the closet.

    I think there are parallels between a gay person staying closeted and a black person that can “pass” choosing to do so. Would you say that someone who is passing is just making a choice about his/her private life, and we should just get off their case? Or would you see that person as someone who was misguided and needed to be honest in order to live a more authentic life?

    Again, I know that there are things that I don’t understand as a straight person. But I see these as legitimate points, and if there is someone who can help me understand what I am missing, I am all eyes.

  • Dave

    (1) I did figure she was gay. (2) Good for her. (3) In the 21st century, one’s sexuality really should be an issue.

  • Mademoiselle

    Interesting questions. This leads me to a thought that I had about the young lady who made the “I’m fair skinned, so I consider my look international” comment on one of those contest shows. The thought I had was that to hide behind an “international” look, or to allow yourself to “pass” for white, when you’re black only perpetuates white privilege and racism — worse yet because you then become a black person actively working to keep black people down. I think the same holds true for closeted gay people: pretending to be something you’re not works against the people who don’t have the option of playing pretend to get ahead, and it reinforces the notion that people like yourself are, in fact, derelicts or dregs to society that should be kept out of sight/mind.

    On the other hand, because gay has to do with sexual behavior (unless I’m missing something), I can’t fully put it in the same category as a black person trying to pass. I feel that way because I’d be just as happy believing everyone who isn’t sleeping with me is completely asexual so as not to hear about all that everyone else is into (that was a hyperbole, but I hope everyone gets it). I guess, in the end, I’m just waiting for the day when someone saying they’re gay becomes synonymous with saying “I only sleep with tall men,” or “I own 5 vibrators,” and it gets just as many shoulder shrugs. I’m waiting for it to be a non-topic.

  • Vee


    I am going to only comment on black people “passing” which is a myth. If you are “passing” you are NOT black in the first place.
    The concept of “passing” rests on the one-drop rule which I reject. It treats black blood like a contaminant. How do you pass for white when you either are or nearly all white?

  • Rob

    LOL ! Like we didn’t know. WOW… Another WNBA player comes out REALLY BIG NEWS. NEXT STORY !

  • Mademoiselle

    My albino cousin, who has two black parents and four black grandparents, does pass for white until he stands next to his sister. I know his case is extreme because of his condition, but incredibly fair skinned all-black black people happens sometimes.

  • Ravi

    The concept of passing is based on people not understanding that there is a ton of variation of skin tones and facial features within the population of people deemed black and that no race has a monopoly on all the traits that characterize it. Thankfully, you aren’t the arbiter of who gets to be black so there are plenty of black people that could pass for white.

  • Vee

    @ Mademoiselle we are not talking about albino . SMH

    @Ravi so you are still holding on the the racist one drop rule. Sorry, I refuse to continue to use white definitions of blackness. I see you are still caught in a time warp.
    Free your mind. Do you know how idiotic this sounds “plenty of black people that could pass for white”.
    No, Multi- Generational Multiracially -Mixed or Biracial people can pass for white, not black people. THE RACIST-‘ONE-DROP RULE’ was a 100%
    non-scientific, socially-constructed “rule” that
    was created by racial-supremacists in an attempt TO DEGRADE all BLACK BLOOD LINEAGE. Those of us who fully understand this do not ascribe to that nonsense. I have long laid down the burned of feeling offended when a biracial person doesn’t identify as black because guess what? They aren’t.
    BTW I rather I’d be the arbiter of my own identity rules, instead of abiding by racist slaveholders ideas like you.

  • Vee

    @Ravi so you are still holding on the the racist one drop rule. Sorry, I refuse to continue to use white definitions of blackness. I see you are still caught in a time warp.
    Free your mind. Do you know how idiotic this sounds “plenty of black people that could pass for white”.
    No, Multi- Generational Multiracially -Mixed or Biracial people can pass for white, not black people. THE RACIST-‘ONE-DROP RULE’ was a 100%
    non-scientific, socially-constructed “rule” that
    was created by racial-supremacists in an attempt TO DEGRADE all BLACK BLOOD LINEAGE. Those of us who fully understand this do not ascribe to that nonsense. I have long laid down the burned of feeling offended when a biracial person doesn’t identify as black because guess what? They aren’t.
    BTW I rather I’d be the arbiter of my own identity rules, instead of abiding by racist slaveholders ideas like you do.

  • Ravi

    @Vee, you really don’t know what conception of race I’m operating from. Do you know how idiotic it sounds for you to complain that once conception of race is socially constructed when race itself is socially constructed? Free your mind from dated and archaic ideas of a scientific basis of race.

    The vast majority of the black people in this hemisphere are racially mixed. For you to nitpick about the degree of mixing to which black starts and white begins is asinine. You don’t get to decide who is black and who is not.

    Oh, and I never said anything about going by the “one-drop rule.” I just know for a fact that most of us are racially mixed and it is impossible to try and separate out certain black people that are too mixed to be black. There are black people, whose blackness you would not question, with fair skinned siblings that could pass for white. Free your mind of your own inconsistent definitions of race and realize that they are just as socially constructed as anyone else’s definition.

  • Vee

    @Ravi Save the “we are all mixed”. The fact is most of us can’t name it but insist on claiming it. Wait, I guess you have Indian in your family? LOL.

    Please. I am not sure why some “black” people need to hold on to these ideas that “I am mixed somewhere down the line”. It’s pathetic. Please save the anecdotal family history, it’s the internet. You could claim to be the child of Bill Gates & Oprah for all I know. I am sorry, I don’t function as one of those needy blacks who fantasize of having some faceless, nameless white ancestor like yourself. Your entire premise is based on the one drop rule whether you admitted or not.
    Times are changing, Sir, The idea the ANYBODY and EVERYBODY is black is so 2000. More and more biracial people are embracing a none black identity.
    So Black people can pass? Please let me know when the Yaphet Kottos, Gabrielle Unions of the world wake up and say I going to pass today. The fact is racially mixed people passed, not black people. I am not sure why this concept is so hard to grasp. This erroneous idea of black people passing as white has done more bad than good to the black psyche. It’s part of the reason you have BLACK girls going natural thinking their HAIR is going to look like Tracee Ellis Ross. LMAO. I refuse to play into the game that Black people can be rejected by people who ever NOT BLACK in the first place.

  • binks


  • Vee

    ** who were never black in the first place”**

  • maxineshawattyatlaw

    “You don’t get to decide who is black and who is not. ”

    And neither do you. But if race is socially constructed as you, yourself, say then Vee has as much say in who is black and who is not as you do.

  • Nikki T

    Once again, comments on Clutch alienating our LGBT brothers and sisters. The article posed a question regarding why “coming out” looks different for female athletes compared to male athletes. And it was praising Brittney Griner for being openly out. As a straight person, I cannot begin to understand what it takes to come out. But having many friends who have (and who still are) come out, it’s not always a simple process.

    Secondly, making assumptions about someone’s sexual orientation based on stereotypes is ignorant. And to the person who said it would be heteronormative to think that this lady may be straight, that is false. Being heteronormative means going through life blanketing everyone as heterosexual. In reality what should occur is that we shouldn’t assign sexual preference to anyone (regardless of how feminine or masculine they may appear or act) until the person chooses to tell you what their sexual preference is.

    Finally, while I certainly do not believe in comparing the LGBT experience to the Black experience (or comparing any marginalized groups’ experiences because each has it’s own challenges), I do think at least one similarity is people’s desire to being able to box others. People want to look at someone and know if they are Black (or any other ethnicity) because they do not like racial ambiguity. In the same way, people look at someone and want to be able to check off the gay or straight box (completely disregarding the fact sexuality is a spectrum, but that’s another conversation for another day, that clearly folks aren’t ready to have) because they do not like sexual ambiguity.

    This was meant to be a positive, uplifting piece that had the potential to open up some interesting dialogue about sexuality and athletes. Instead the conversation has devolved into one of “duh, we all knew she was gay”…

  • Misty_Moonsilver

    Is anyone actually surprised?

  • Dallas

    The only one who gets it.

  • Ravi

    The fact is most of us can’t name our African ancestry either. So what’s your point? If you can’t name it, then it didn’t happen? LOL. Your “logic” is failing you miserably. The fact that most Black Americans have a good deal of white and Native American ancestry is not dependent upon being able to identify exactly where that ancestry came from. That’s all moot because I actually do enough about my ancestry to know where some of the more recent mixing comes from.

    Black people don’t need to hold on to anything; we just happen to know enough about our history to know that anyone descended from slaves in this country, likely has a good deal of European ancestry. I never said this was a point of pride. That was one of your many ASSumptions. And a premise wouldn’t be based on a one drop rule; that would be a premise, smartness. As I said before, I’m not working from that premise. I don’t adhere to any one drop rule. I’m just not stupid enough to think that blackness is defined by it’s purity. Nor am I stupid enough to think that black people can’t be mixed. It’s really not that hard of a concept to understand — being black is not mutually exclusive to being mixed.

    I didn’t say every black person can pass so the fact that you can point out a few dark skinned people that cannot pass means what? I said SOME black people can pass for white. I didn’t say that they weren’t mixed. I’m asserting that MOST black people in this country are mixed, so it is moot to even bring it up. I’m not the one with the difficulty grasping concepts here. I suggest you go back to the drawing board and if you want to make up your own ideas of race, make something a tad more consistent and not quite so divorced from any conception of race ever used. While you are at it, try reading a book on race and ethnicity. Hell, try wikipedia. That would be a good start for your deluded wannabe revolutionary butt. And enough with the assumptions. They make you look even dumber than I’m sure you are.

  • Ravi


    When exactly did I say I was? please quote me. Do you understand what “socially constructed” means? It doesn’t mean individual construct. One individual creating a highly idiosyncratic definition of a term isn’t what is meant by a social construct. Race is clearly a social construct and that does not give either of us the ability to define it based on our whim with no regard to preexisting conceptions of the word that were actually constructed socially. Neither of us has any say as to who is and is not black. I’ve never remotely suggested otherwise. I can, however, understand enough about the way the term “race” is used to say who would be defined as black by a given definition. And I can also point out when someone is making up a BS definition of race with no internal consistency, and no logical basis.

  • Ravi

    did anyone actually say anything about heteronormative in any of the earlier comments? And is not being surprised that someone is gay the same as assuming that they were in fact gay? Is it possible that the people that would be surprised are the ones that would be guilty of making assumptions of heterosexuality? Finally, are you denying that there are cultural aspects of being LGBT? And if there are, would generalizations based on exhibiting any characteristics of said culture be statistically valid?

  • talaktochoba

    sad…very, very sad;

    if women were meant to be with women, why would we need men?

    and any man who is not with a woman can never be a real man, just merely male…or else there’s no need for women;

    don’t take it out on me, i didn’t invent either sex…but i do know if either sex’ biological purpose is not served, there will be a price to be paid in future–the price of evolution;

    just ask our fangs and our tails, when you find them…

  • trueletterson

    Nikki again I am a “heterosexual” black male and proud of it! You get it?

  • ScriptTease

    Women who dress with they ass all hanging out, then get offended when they are disrespected by men, that is the attention you bring on yourself. People assume you are a skanky slut because you leave nothing to the imagination…same difference. Some Gay folks dress a certain way and you can’t help but to assume they are Gay. The the way I see it, regardless if they come out the closet or not, If you dress like a dude, and have swagger like a dude, wear your hair like a dude, and attempt to minimize your breast, people will assume you are gay. Now I want ask because it’s none of my business, but if the conversation comes up, I will assume, and for a person to get upset, then maybe they shouldn’t dress a certain way, or even talk a certain way if they are in fact a heterosexual. Any who, I still have no problem on what they choose.

  • Nikki T

    I’m sorry Ravi, but I’m legitimately confused about the questions you’re posing and how they relate at all to my original post. My answers are as follows: Yes someone did use the term heteronormative. Yes not being surprise that someone is gay does assume they are gay, which is exactly the point I argue against. And again, yes stating that if you are the type of person who would say that you are not surprise that someone is gay, it’s highly likely (please note I’m not implying there is a causal relationship here) you would be the type of person to make assumptions regarding heterosexuality. And absolutely no, there are cultural aspects to being LGBT, I never said and I would never say such a thing. I was simply saying that you cannot compare the experiences of marginalized folks on a one to one scale. And to your last question, that would depend on the type of model you develop to test such a theory, your data, and so on and so forth. But you strike as the type of person who would know that setting up such a statistically valid social experiment would be difficult.

  • Ravi

    The questions relate to your post in that they are getting at a better understanding of where you are coming from. I honestly could not find any place in the above comments where anyone even mentioned “heteronormative” so your second paragraph was confusing to say the least.

    Most of the questions were rhetorical. Not being surprised that someone turns out to be gay does not necessitate that you assumed they were gay. If you don’t actually assign a sexual preference until someone chooses to reveal, then you shouldn’t be surprised by what they tell you. Not making any assumptions about someone’s sexuality makes it not very surprising when their sexuality is revealed. It seems that anyone that is surprised by her coming out was likely assuming she was straight. That is the essence of a heteronormative view.

    I wasn’t suggesting a social experiment, just using generalizations to make intelligent inferences. All humans make generalizations in a manner that would likely cause us to infer the likelihood that we are dealing with a member of that group in future occurrences. If you were to see a person in a police uniform, it would be a pretty reasonable assumption that they are a police officer. This is because police officers disproportionately wear police uniforms; this is what I was terming a statistically valid generalization. No need to perform any sort of experiment.

    Similarly, if there are any cultural aspects to being LGBTQ, then it goes to reason that they would exhibit those behavior patterns at a disproportionate rate. I’m not saying that this would be determinative, but it certainly makes for a reasonable assumption and cause not to be surprised. An example of this would be cross dressing. Given, there are many drag queens that are straight, but I’m not going to be surprised if I find out that Ru Paul is gay. I truthfully don’t know his sexual orientation, but it definitely won’t shock me to find out he was gay. It wouldn’t surprise me if he turned out to be bi or straight either. The only people that are going to be surprised are the ones that were already making assumptions.

  • Nikki T

    Ravi, I couldn’t respond to the thread so I’m starting a new one (and then I’m done, I’m more than happy to let you have the last word). I’ll start by saying that I I promise you that I saw the word heteronormative, those aren’t terms you see being tossed around the internet on a regular basis. But, fine, we’ll call it a moot point. I appreciate your clarification and I understand where you’re coming from. However, I think you know as well I that this whole “I’m not surprised to hear she’s gay” commentary is not rooted in this “I’m not making any assumptions about her sexuality” ideal. It’s coming from a place where people have assumed that she was gay and therefore are not shock to hear that she is in fact gay. And just the same, being surprise to find out she was gay would mean that you’ve assumed she was straight, I agree with you there. Surprise in either direction would mean an assumption was made. I was specifically addressing those comments about not being surprised because one, it wasn’t the point of the article and two, it was based on stereotypes.

    As far as these intellectual inferences, while I agree we as humans do this, it can quickly become a slippery slope of relying on stereotypes to drive these inferences. For example, someone could statistically demonstrate that particularly group of people disproportionately commit a certain type of crime. Sure, that’s what the numbers show but we’ve seen the result of relying on such inferences…you get my drift, I’m sure. I’m not saying it’s not a reasonable to make assumptions based on data (real data mind you) but it can quickly take a negative turn.

    Finally, I think you’re misinterpreting my point. The default of not being surprised isn’t necessarily being surprised. I was neither surprised or not surprised to find out this young lady is gay, I simply took it in as a piece of information. So I’m not saying people should have been surprised.

  • trueletterson

    Look you two Nikki T and Ravi it’s simple anyone with a ounce of sense who have follow her over the years and watch how she carry herself is not surprise that she say she is gay it makes no sense to make something so simple complicated! This is not rocket science!

  • Ravi

    Considering I was one of the first to express my lack of surprise, I’m sure I don’t know that the commentary is not coming from a place of not making assumptions. For my part, I wouldn’t be surprised either way. I can’t speak for everyone else that expressed a lack of surprise, but I wouldn’t assume everyone necessarily assumed she was gay.

    I agree it can become a slippery slope, but that usually occurs when people think a given set of characteristics are determinative. Like with my cross dressing example, if one was to assume that a person was necessarily gay because they were a cross dresser then that would be problematic. If someone were to think a person was more likely gay than not based on exhibiting such behavior, then not so problematic.

    I don’t think I misunderstood you so much as I don’t think there is a third option between being surprised and not being surprised. If you are not surprised then you are not surprised reflexively and seemingly by definition. I don’t know that it is possible to be not surprised and not not surprised. I appears that by saying people should not express a lack of surprise that it follows that they should be surprised. Now if there is a way to be not surprised and not not surprised, then I would probably agree with you. In any case, well played.

  • Quelqu’un

    …I don’t think you really know much about evolution.

  • chanela17

    RIGHT! most of the female basketball players are lesbian.

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