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Gay Athletes Air Concerns, Share Support at Meeting

Scenarios such as this were discussed at a Duke University forum examining the issues homosexual athletes face and how they cope with them.

About 25 people attended the forum, which was the last in a five-part series sponsored by the Duke Center for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Life entitled "Out In the Field."

The discussion started with an ESPN video produced by Duke graduate Craig Lazarus entitled "Outside the Lines: The World of the Gay Athlete."

A panel of gay and lesbian athletes, which also included David Lohse, UNC's associate sports information director, then discussed how gay and lesbian athletes can deal with issues such as ostracization from their peers.

Leigh Steinberg, a sports agent who has worked with gay athletes, was interviewed in the video and emphasized that he believes it is easier to market a convicted felon than an openly gay athlete.

Also featured in the video was Greg Condon, a former football player at Troy High School in Troy, PA.

Condon said that his best friend - upon hearing that Condon was gay - called and told him that he wouldn't talk to him at school anymore.

"It was hard to not be phased by anti-gay jokes" Condon added. "Fudgepacker. Faggot. It's amazing how many gay names are out there."

Boky Vidic, a former basketball player at Oregon State University who was also in the video, said she came out during her senior season at OSU.

Vidic said coming out was a big load off her chest and her teammates supported her - unlike some other homosexual athletes who came out of the closet. Vidic, who played in the American Basketball Leagues, estimates that up to 60 percent of the players in the league are gay.

She also pointed out that homosexual issues are much more talked about in professional leagues than on the college level.

During the panel discussion, each member talked about his or her experience as a gay athlete and the pros and cons of coming out to teammates, coaches and classmates.

Panelists said coming out allows them to be themselves but also exposed them to discrimination and ridicule.

Lohse, who is gay, said he was pleased with the open-minded attitudes of UNC's student athletes.

He said he has never heard a derogatory comment from an athlete about his sexual orientation.

Ian Lekus, a gay male graduate student in Duke's history department and a self-described sports junkie, said fear of discrimination prevented him from playing in high school or collegiate athletics.

Lekus added that the forum's conversation was beneficial to the LGBT community. "Without discussion, we can have no progress." he said.

"(The process of coming out) is a tough but not an impossible one.

"We are making progress."

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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