Co-Founder Shares Story to Encourage Allyship

For almost half of my college career I was a closeted gay athlete.
Clare Kenny '15, Volleyball

Clare Kenny '15, Volleyball

Deeply affected by the culture around LGBTQ identities in athletics, SYS co-founder Clare Kenny '15 addressed Skidmore Athletes in a letter this month, encouraging them to participate in National Coming Out Day, October 11th.

Her story of fear, isolation, and ultimately acceptance and confidence, was passed out to SAAC reps practicing fall teams. Athletes were then given rainbow ribbons to wear over the October 10-12th competition weekend. View the gallery of athlete participation, and read her full letter below: 


Skidmore Athletes,

My name is Clare Kenny, I played on the Women’s Volleyball team from 2011 until my graduation in 2015. During my time as a Thoroughbred, my team went 73-60, went undefeated in a Liberty League regular season, won a Liberty League Championship, and attended two NCAA tournaments, making it to the second round both years. Our on-court prowess brought me great joy and feelings of accomplishment. But even as I look back on our most successful years, I am reminded of deep pain and struggle.

For almost half of my college career I was a closeted gay athlete. While I didn’t allow myself to feel shame for who I was as a gay person off the court, I still struggled to fully express who I was while with my teammates. In many ways I lived a double life, feeling like a fraud in both realms: too queer in the sports world, too sporty in the queer world.

For me, being closeted meant hiding certain parts of myself. From shying away from political conversations, to lying about who I was with that weekend—my real life was a secret only a few friends knew about.

While some of my teammates were supportive of LGBTQ issues, most were silent, and a few were at times openly hateful. I believe the silence stood strong because of the belief that we did not have any gay people on our team, and therefore did not need to be careful, considerate, or especially mindful of LGBTQ issues. What they did not know, and what none of us will ever fully know, is how many people we share our lives with who hide their true selves in order to stay safe, to be accepted.

I believe I was a well-liked teammate—I was funny, passionate, and hardworking. But I was terrified that my teammates, my role models, would think I was gross or weird for being a lesbian. At times, I still am. And as I look forward to reunions, I wonder what some of my former teammates really know about me, and if they feel differently now that I am out and very proud.

Small acts of openness and awareness can go a long way in the hearts and minds of LGBTQ & Ally athletes.

At the same time, I owe so much of my comfort to the teammates and fellow athletes who came out as openly supportive of LGBTQ issues. My senior season proved to be my happiest, as I experienced what it felt like to be truly accepted and understood by my teammates. For the first time, I felt comfortable talking about my personal life, beliefs, and asking my teammates to step up for our LGBTQ community.

Now, I am asking you to take action and support your fellow LGBTQ athletes, coaches, and peers by participating in National Coming Out Day. October 11th, 2015 marks the 27th anniversary of the March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights. Every year since that date, October 11th has served as a profound day to promote equality and awareness for the LGBTQ community.

Please join Show Your Sport’s celebration of National Coming Out Day on Saturday, October 10th. Skidmore Athletes who wish to participate are asked to wear a rainbow ribbon during their games and in the stands to openly show their support of LGBTQ players, coaches, and peers.

Small acts of openness and awareness can go a long way in the hearts and minds of LGBTQ & Ally athletes. Be a leader. Stand up for those who are afraid to be themselves. Support your teammates. Support your coaches. Support National Coming Out Day.

Clare Kenny ’15

Co-Founder | Show Your Sport