Sports

Perspective

Photograph by Jamie Betts

When I was being recruited, I did my research and wanted to make sure that Richmond was a place where I was going to be able to feel comfortable. And during my visits on campus, I felt comfortable.

That’s great, but when you get here, that feeling could shift a little bit, you know? When it came to actually being here, I was very nervous initially about being myself. I’m very aware of the different spaces that I’m in and very conscious of the way that my identities can be perceived and how that can affect me and my safety. Like, when my hair is short and I’m driving, I’m very aware of the fact that my hair is short and I’m driving. I think, “What implications can it have for me if I get pulled over?” because I’ve been misgendered before. We see stories in the media about black men and the consequences of the snap judgments made about them. That’s something that I need to be aware of. My own identity, how I present, and how that can affect me in different spaces are all very important to my experience.

I feel as though if I don’t bring my authentic self to a space, then I’m doing a disservice not only to myself but to other people who might need to see somebody who identifies in some of the same ways that I do. That’s why I think representation is so important — being able to see people who look like you and identify the same way that you do, which gives you somebody to look up to.

I’m proud to express another part of my identity when I walk around in the community wearing the Richmond logo. Whenever I step on the court, I’m just as proud because I’m representing a place where I’ve felt like I can bring my authentic self to the table over and over again.

But I also recognize that not everyone feels that way. It’s important to recognize that there may be deeply personal reasons why not everyone can bring their authentic self to the table. One of the reasons that Shades of Pride came about was that I was sitting one day and thinking about my experience and thought, “Hmm, I’m a junior, and I feel like I don’t really know that many LGBTQ people of color.” I know they’re out there. I know we’re here, so why is it that in my junior year, I don’t really have that community? Well, when you don’t have community, you build it. Whether you build it on your own or with the help of people, you build it.

That’s why I went to my friend Dom Harrington, ’19, and I was like, “Hey, do you want to do this thing together?”

Dom and I wanted to address the fact that LGBTQ students of color may not have a space where they feel that they can be themselves. When we were getting Shades of Pride started, we were very intentional about where our meetings were going to be held and how we were sending messages because we were thinking about some of the different aspects that come with being an LGBTQ person of color. Even creating an Instagram page — which seems so small — would require people to publicly follow Shades of Pride’s account. Before we eventually decided to launch the page, we had long conversations about whether it would work against our purpose of protecting and uplifting members of our community.

There’s so much value in affinity groups. I believe that there’s power in being able to go to a space where you don’t have to explain everything, where you’re not going to be questioned, and people aren’t going to be confused. It’s just nice to be in a space with people who share some of the same identities and some of the same experiences as you.

I think that’s why sport, in general, has the power to unite people. When you’re at a sporting event, the thing that unites everyone is that you’re all cheering for that team and you want that team’s success. You’re not thinking about politics or the different things that can divide people. People have genuine love for their teams, and I think love beats everything else.