Campus Pride’s “2010 Hot List” includes local attorney Brian Sims and Penn State University researcher Dr. Sue Rankin.
In addition to recognizing the work of the leaders, the top-25 list, which also includes individuals like Kathy Griffin, Judy Shepard, Mara Kiesling and Dan Savage, serves as a resource for colleges looking to host speakers who can address LGBT-awareness issues.
Sims, chair of the Gay and Lesbian Lawyers of Philadelphia and president of the board of Equality PA, has been visiting college campuses throughout the nation for the past year, telling his own story of coming out as a college athlete in order to encourage awareness and tolerance throughout collegiate athletic communities.
Sims was captain of the Bloomsburg University football team when he came out, making him the first openly gay football captain in the history of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
He said he tries to speak the language of the students.
“I say to them, ‘Listen, as athletes you’re kind of expected to not be supportive of LGBT issues, but I don’t think that about you. You may have supported our community in coming out, and we want to support you coming out as allies.’ That’s the definition of sportsmanship,” he said. “We can have different opinions and different approaches, but we can still come together for our common goals and our common interests; they’re more important than our differences.”
The response to his presentations have been overwhelmingly positive: After having spoken to about 10,000 college students, athletic employees and others in the past year, Sims hasn’t yet received negative feedback. Last week, he was a guest at the University of North Carolina, where he spoke with about 500 of the school’s athletes and students — and the next day, received at least 40 e-mails from audience members, all expressing gratitude.
“Usually about a third of the responses are heavily straight, with the students saying, ‘I always thought I was OK with gay issues, but if I’m the only one who knows that and none of my friends realize that I’m supportive, then maybe I’m not doing enough to be proactive.’ And then a third are from athletes who are struggling with how to come out and trying to figure out if they should tell a teammate, a family member, a coach, or where the best place to start is. And the last is from coaches and parents and friends who say that they never really realized what these athletes could be struggling with. The coaches want their teams to win but they also want them to have a positive impact on the athletes, and I think they’re starting to realize that they need those athletes to bring their whole person to the field or to the court. And if they’re ignoring people who may be struggling with being LGBT, they don’t feel like they’re doing their whole job.”
Sims said he is a “huge fan” of Campus Pride and was honored to be included on the organization’s top-25 list.
“Campus Pride laid the foundation for most colleges to bring in people like me to talk about these issues,” he said. “We share a lot of common goals, and when I’m at colleges and people ask for advice, I am always quick to recommend Campus Pride. It’s a great organization for college students and administrators to help them gauge these issues.”
Jen Colletta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.