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Athletic team OutPeer and OutAlly lists return after seven years

January 31, 2020

Posters displaying lists of students who have participated in OutPeer or OutAlly training through the Center for Sexuality, Women and Gender (SWAG) have long been a staple in bathroom stalls throughout Bowdoin’s campus. Now, in addition to the existing posters, students will see similar lists with students’ names sorted by sports team.

The posters, which can be found in locker rooms around campus, are part of an initiative to extend the OutPeer and OutAlly programs to ensure a broader support network for students who may be questioning their sexuality or seeking guidance.

The athlete-specific posters aren’t new—they were first created eight years ago—but had not been updated in nearly five years, according to Alex Tyson ’22.

Tyson, a member of the football team, wanted to increase inclusivity within the athletic department, so he created the most recently updated version of the list last summer.

In addition to creating the lists, Tyson and Noa Schumann ’22 hosted the 11th annual “Winning Together: Allies in Athletics” event in November. The dinner and panel discussion centered around issues of inclusivity—or exclusivity—in sports culture, especially those related to sexuality. Sophomores who represented each athletic team on campus attended the event.

For Schumann, who is a former member of the women’s squash team, targeting sophomores was crucial in order to ensure that conversations about sexuality and gender don’t stop after orientation.

“I think Bowdoin does a good job of promoting inclusivity and having programs for first-years, like Perspectives [a student production performed during orientation],” said Schumann. “But I think following through is really important.”

At the event November event, Schumann and Tyson handed out copies of the posters to attending athletes, with instructions to hang them up where their teammates would see them.

Associate Dean of Students for Inclusion and Diversity and Director of the Center of SWAG Kate Stern explained that attendees were quick to help hang the posters.

“They were really enthusiastic about being supportive of [the posters],” Stern said.

In addition to hosting the event, Schumann and Tyson increased outreach efforts for the OutAllies program among student athletes. These efforts proved successful. According to Stern, a record number of athletes participated in OutAllies training this year.

“Having so many athletes that can think about the culture of their team as allies means a lot to athletes who are out, athletes who are coming out and athletes who aren’t out yet,” said Stern. “It’s really meaningful to have that visual. You’re going to see that other people on my team have spent four hours doing this even though they didn’t have to.”

The program will continue with an event for student-athletes in the spring to reinforce the messages about inclusivity discussed at the event in November.

For Tyson, the project highlights the importance of actively supporting inclusivity on athletic teams.

“What I talked about at the November program is that we need to stop being passive supporters and actively do something to show how inclusive we can be,” said Tyson. “Because just sitting there and having your name on a list isn’t actually supportive. It’s just comforting. So we wanted to do something to actually show support.”

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