Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Kate Fagan: "The Reappearing Act": coming out as lesbian in women's basketball, among evangelical Christians

Author: Kate Fagan

Title: “The Reappearing Act: Coming Out as Gay on a College Basketball Team Led by Born-Again Christians

Subtitle: “A Coming-of-Age Memoir about One Woman’s Experience as an Athlete Struggling wither Sexual Identity”

Publication: 2014, Shyhorse, 978-1-62914-205-0, 186 pages, hardcover

Amazon link:  publisher link  author link 

The author is a columnist and writer for ESPN.  I bought the book at a “signing party” and discussion at the HRC Headquarters in Washington DC on May 1 (see my GLBT blog that date). 

Maybe “women’s basketball” is an “obvious” sport for lesbians, but most of this book would discourage that notion.  I haven’t checked yet, but I would wonder what the author would write about other sports, ranging from MLB to the Olympics.  I remember even a written test on basketball in 9th grade PE, but the author points out that overseas (when she worked in Ireland), people aren’t too interested in the life of James Naismith.

The author experienced her growing up on the women’s basketball team for the University of Colorado. But many of her friends were evangelical Christians, particularly Colorado’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  Life for college athletes offers little privacy (the coach insisted that the players rotate roommates on road trips).  That used to be true of college dorm life in general, like when I started at William and Mary in that lost semester of 1961. 

Fagan comes under a lot of pressure to share the faith of her teammates.  Inevitably, homosexuality – lesbianism – will get smoked out.  But there’s a basic question, why do people need to pray, and take the words of scripture as a source of “rules” for living.  It seems that one can interpret the Gospel, with all the parables and miracles, as providing a roadmap for dealing with life’s moral ironies and apparent paradoxes.  You can’t have innovation and improvement for “the group” without some inequality and sacrifice, so there should exist an expectation of “giving back”.  Difficult quandaries follow, like what one values in other people.  But whatever the religious creed, one ought to find some sort of rationality in the moral teachings, as a way to get to the bottom of these paradoxes.  One of the “common good” needs for the group is to reproduce itself and raise future generations.  But it’s never made sense to me that God gives free will and then turns around and makes inflexible rules as to how everyone participates in this responsibility, given the necessary diversity of nature.  The “laws” of physics, chemistry, and biology – and group psychology -- mean that diversity will happen, but certain actions, when encouraged, can lead to certain kinds of tensions over time. 

Toward the end. Fagan gradually comes out, to everyone, including her family.

The book seems relatively focused in scope (women’s basketball) when the attention of gays in big league sports is gaining traction, and big league sports adopt non-discrimination clauses.  As with the military, the tension in closed-knit situation is nothing like what the Nunn-Moskos crowd once theorized it would be.

The author said that finding a publisher for such a "specialized" area within both LGBT and sports topics was difficult, and apparently she didn't want to self-publish. 

(See also “The Game of My Life:, March 18, 2008.)

Another comparison would be Esear Tuoalo, "Alone in the Trenches: My Life as a Gay Man in the NFL" (Sourcebooks, 2006) and Mark Tewksburg "Inside Out: Straight Talk from a Gay Jock" (Wiley, 2006). as well as Greg Louganis "Breaking the Surface"  (1995) and "The Dave Kopay Story" (1997). 

Mountain picture: Colorado Springs, CO (home of Focus on the Family) from Pikes Peak, which I visited in Aug. 1994 by rent car (Wikipedia link)

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