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Cornell University Athlete Ally hosts FIFA World Cup champion

Megan Rapinoe, a member of the U.S. women’s national soccer team, spoke about her experiences as an LGBT athlete on March 10 at Cornell University.
by Sara Kim and David Stern

Six-hundred and twenty people packed the Newman Arena at Cornell University to hear Olympic gold medalist and FIFA World Cup champion Megan Rapinoe speak about LGBT inclusion in athletics on March 10.

The Cornell chapter of Athlete Ally invited Rapinoe, a member of the U.S. women’s national soccer team, to share her experience as a professional soccer player and as an advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights within athletics.

Rapinoe said she has accepted her sexuality and is comfortable and proud with being labeled as a gay athlete.

“For me, this is who I am. I live it very openly,” Rapinoe said. “I am so happy that I came out, it’s the best thing that I have ever done for myself and to have that be part of my label means a lot to me.”

Cassandra Poudrier, president of the Athlete Ally chapter at Cornell University, said she chose Rapinoe to speak at the university rather than other LGBT athletes because of her large public presence in the media over the past year.

“Being an LGBT athlete myself and also just having seen a lot of my friends struggle, I think that for me, I have a chance to make something happen,” Poudrier said.

She said she would like to create an atmosphere for her friends and teammates to be the best they can be by taking the pressure off of themselves and focusing on the game.

“I think that Athlete Ally just needs to keep getting involved on campuses,” Poudrier said. “Starting those conversations on every campus would be great.”

Rapinoe said she brings awareness to LGBT athletes by talking about it as much as she can. She said for college athletes, the space to discuss LGBT awareness is difficult.

“I think seeing me and seeing the way that I speak about it and the way that I am comfortable with it can give them a little bit of a boost or just someone to look at that makes it a little bit easier for them,” she said.

Brian Patchcoski, associate dean of students and director of the LGBT resource center at Cornell, said collaboration between Athlete Ally, Cornell and the Ithaca community was key to making this event possible.

“There’s huge support,” he said, noting the list of sponsors for the event and the diverse crowd of students, faculty, staff and local community members. “We have lots of work to do in athletics so I think people are interested to see how we can make sport more inclusive.”

He said this collaboration across campus and the greater Ithaca community has been one of the major achievements of Poudrier and Athlete Ally at Cornell.

“Athlete Ally has really led the way in making sure that things were coming together in a way that is not just athletics but across the Cornell community and making this something important for the entire Cornell but also Ithaca community,” Patchcoski said.

Patchcoski said the event was a “wonderful success” and the dialogue provided by Rapinoe will help further expand the conversation surrounding LGBT inclusivity in athletics.

“As Megan has noted, women in sport is one piece of this but we’ve got gender dynamics still happening,” he said. “I think we have a lot of work yet to do.”

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