A new student organization, Swarthmore Queer Athletes (SQA), is starting on campus. Founded by student-athletes Eléonore Moser ’20, Seneca Kinn-Gurzo ’20, and Sydney Covitz ’20, SQA will be centered around gender and sexuality in connection to athletics. SQA’s initial meeting will be Sunday, March 22 (the first Sunday after spring break) at 9 p.m. in the IC Big Room.
The three seniors, all of whom are on the Women’s Soccer Team (Covitz is also on Women’s Track & Field), shared their motivations for starting SQA.
“The three of us went to [Swarthmore Queer Union’s] initial meeting a few weeks ago,” said the SQA founders. “At this meeting, we were asked about places on campus where we have experienced queer communities. We immediately thought of our team, Women’s Soccer. After talking with some other athletes, we realized that this sense of belonging and acceptance with regards to sexuality that we feel on our team does not carry over to all teams within Swat Athletics, so we wanted to create a diverse group where people can have a place to go to discuss queer issues if they do not feel comfortable doing so on their respective teams.”
Moser, Kinn-Gurzo, and Covitz also shared how discrimination based on sexuality and gender played a role in their decision to start SQA.
“We recognize that homophobia and transphobia exist and have existed within athletic departments since their inceptions. We have seen this with fans from other schools, teams on campus, as well as the general world of sports outside of Swarthmore,” stated the three seniors.
In addition to outlining their essential goal of creating an inter-team community of queer athletes, the SQA founders also shared how they do not want the organization to run out of steam.
“There have been attempts to start versions of SQA in the past, but they were ultimately unsuccessful due to seniors graduating and the idea losing momentum. We hope to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past by getting underclassmen involved from the getgo and finding people who will want to hit the ground running as leaders of the group next fall,” stated the seniors.
In terms of the exact layout of SQA, Moser, Kinn-Gurzo, and Covitz expressed their desire to leave the decision of what the organization will look like up to its members.
“We are hoping to have an initial meeting where we start talking about what we want this group to look like. We hope this meeting will create a space that can be transformed to meet the needs of queer/questioning athletes from all teams/backgrounds. We recognize that we don’t represent the diversity of the athletic LBGTQ+ community, as three white soccer players,” said the SQA founders.
The three seniors also shared whether they thought SQA should be entirely student-based or involve non-student participants.
“Until we decide exactly how this group can best serve the queer/questioning athlete community, we’d like to keep the group student based; however, incoroporating queer-identifying coaches and staff over time is a longer term goal. We envision that this group can be a space for discussion where we work to heal and change team cultures,” stated Moser, Kinn-Gurzo, and Covitz.
The SQA founders also provided their thoughts on why having specifically athlete-oriented organizations that tackle topics of gender and sexuality are necessary, drawing attention to the uncomfortable gender binary athletics creates.
“Athletics poses different and unique challenges for queer and trans people that often go unaddressed. There’s a very explicit and strong gender binary within the framework of having separate men’s and women’s teams, including binary locker rooms and different uniforms. Athletics is a very physically intimate arena where athletes shower together and are often in close contact physically. Further, sometimes teams have reputations that might not invite or make space for someone on that team being comfortable coming out. Since individual athletes are supposed to represent their teams, a team’s desire to steer clear of a queer reputation, consciously or subconsciously, can lead to extra pressure on individuals to stay in the closet,” stated the seniors.
Moser, Kinn-Gurzo, and Covitz also touched upon the discrepancy that can occur between men’s and women’s sports teams in connection to tolerance of gender and sexuality. The seniors broke down the dynamics of gender and sexuality within male athletics that lead to heightened homophobia and transphobia.
“Male athletics especially can become a space of hypermasculine performance in which physical strength and aggression, two attributes associated with certain forms of masculinity valued in contact sports, are prioritized. Given the inaccurate equating of effeminacy and queerness in men, casual homophobia becomes a method through which someone can distance themselves from both queerness and femininity, and thereby reassert their own masculinity, strength, and proficiency in their sport. In addition to explicit intolerance from teammates or fans, part of the reason why some athletes may fear coming out as LGBTQ+ is because of the association with femininity and physical weakness, and a subsequent lack of acceptance as a contributing member of their team,” shared Moser, Kinn-Gurzo, and Covitz.
The SQA founders were sure to note, however, that although there is a more general tolerance of gender and sexuality within female athletics, there is still much work to be done overall, especially for athletes who are trans and non-binary. Moser, Kinn-Gurzo, and Covitz again affirmed the need for an inter-team community of queer athletes, given the wide range of gender and sexual identities and varying forms of marginzaliation.
“We are hoping that SQA will help merge LGBTQ+ identifying athletes with the broader campus queer community, since athletics often ends up being a separate space. The three of us certainly don’t have the positionalities to experience all forms of marginalization within the queer community, so we hope this group will help bring together a wide range of athletes with different experiences so we can address them all together,” stated the three seniors.
Once again, SQA’s first meeting will be Sunday, March 22 (the first Sunday after spring break) at 9 p.m. in the IC Big Room — student-athletes who are queer or questioning are encouraged to attend. Moser, Kinn-Gurzo, and Covitz will be sending out details through the Athletics and Swarthmore Queer Union listservs.