More than half of the Bowdoin student body either plays a varsity, club or intramural sport, or competed in high school. And, many would argue, the sports environment is the hardest environment to come out in.

The Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity and the Department of Athletics, along with BMASV and BQSA, created Anything But Straight in Athletics (ABSA) in response to this problem confronting athletes.

"There seems to be a Bowdoin tradition of waiting until after you graduate to come out," said Kate Stern, the director of the Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity. "People seem to be more comfortable coming out once they are done being athletes."

The program began at the end of last semester in early December and consists of two parts: the day of events and monthly meetings.

The first day was April 9, which primarily focused on education and outreach on the topic of queerness in athletics.

The monthly discussions are designed to give students a chance to come together, find support, and talk about how it is to be both gay and an athlete. These meetings are completely confidential and are facilitated by Stern, men's tennis coach Colin Joyner and women's hockey coach Stacy Wilson.

Overall, Stern said the reception has been very good.

"People do come—it's not tiny and it's not huge. It's a good size group," said Stern. "The meetings are for more than just athletes, they're for anyone who has to balance athletic activities and sexual orientation."

The group discussions have covered topics such as how often people have to choose between being an athlete and being queer. This question is usually solved in two ways: either the person stops playing the sport or he chooses to lead a seemingly straight life so they can play and be accepted.

"It is hard and courageous to do both," said Stern. "And that is why there are so few on campus who do both."

The group has also discussed the differences in comfort level for coming out on certain teams. Additionally, the group talks about the difficulty of coming out on teams in which no one else is out and on teams that are stereotypically regarded as having more out members. The group has also kept in mind that men's and women's issues are different and complex.

There are many reasons why a program like this is important on campus. Athletic Director Jeff Ward said he was reminded of Martin Luther King's famous quote, "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

"I personally think that it should be our goal to expand this so that people also will not be judged by things like their sexual orientation and socioeconomic background," said Ward.

"I think ABSA is a great way to keep the momentum going on the fight against homophobia in the athletics department," said Ben Chadwick '11. "After the great events on April 9, I think it's important to keep the dialogue about homophobia in athletics open in hopes to continue to make change."

Stern emphasized the importance of opening dialogue on campus about coming out in athletics.

Though coaches are extremely supportive, it takes a change in the entire team's attitude to result in a less intimidating process of coming out in athletics.

"When we eliminate homophobic language and more closeted athletes start coming out, then we are being successful," said Ward. "But we have to keep in mind that 25 percent of our population is new every year and that while we can change our culture to adapt newcomers quicker and easier, these issues are always something we are going to have to deal with."

As for the future, there seems to be nothing barring the continuation of the program for next year. There will be a conversation about the subject during captain's training and there will be additional ally training for coaches.

"Our ultimate goal is create the most accepting environment possible in the athletic department for all different types of sexualities, as well as reach out to closeted athletes in need of help," said Chadwick.