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6. Charline Labonte Comes Out
It wasn’t Michael Sam, but a prominent athlete and Olympian Charline Labonte came out as gay this year as well.
When I found out of the story, I wasn’t surprised. Well, actually, I was. Women’s hockey is a very small world. When you’re around it as much as I had been – five years at Concordia University, including two years that Labonte played for McGill – you hear things.
What surprised me wasn’t that she was gay. What surprised me was that she wasn’t out. Labonte, like many women athletes, wasn’t hiding that she was gay. She merely didn’t discuss it. Women’s sports have historically been much more friendly to gay athletes because, that’s the stereotype isn’t it?
If you asked the general population, I guarantee you a lot would look at some female athletes and just assume that they are gay, despite being happily married with children.
The point is, the sports world needs ambassadors like Labonte and Sam and Jason Collins and Robbie Rogers and everyone else who has come out in history. It isn’t easy for someone in the public eye to say they are gay – whether they are a woman or a man.
Every time an athlete comes out, the stigma around being a gay athlete in sports is lessened. It brings it out into the open and eventually it will come to the point when it comes out, and people just shrug their shoulders.
But it will not get to that point without these brave people. People who share their stories and open their lives are important, especially those who are still playing – and that isn’t to lessen former athletes coming out.
Labonte is still an important member of the Montreal Stars and even though she said that Sochi would be her last Olympics, one of the CWHL’s captains for the first women’s hockey all-star game will be around for others.