Conference Addresses Stigmas Facing Gay Athletes

Updated: 01/18/2013 8:14 PM KSTP.com By: Joy Lim Nakrin

A conference at Hamline University addressed the stigmas gay athletes face, aiming to reduce GLBT bullying in schools.

Nearly 200 students, parents, teachers and social workers gathered for the 2nd annual Minnesota conference for PFLAG. PFLAG stands for "Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Persons.

Speakers included former Vikings player Esera Tuaolo, Philadelphia Flyer's scout Patrick Burke and former NCAA rower Becca Lindquist.

Panelists spoke candidly about their experiences with discrimination while offering advice and encouragement to others.

Tuaolo told KSTP's Joy Lim Nakrin, "I used to be that athlete, that professional athlete, that felt so alone. I couldn't share myself, who I truly was, that I was gay...that I was this gay athlete."

Tuaolo, who came out in 2002, went on to say "We live in a society that truly hates us for who we truly are, that doesn't support me for who I truly am. So that's why you feel so alone, so isolated, on an island by yourself.

But let me tell you, when you do take that step forward and you come out into your truth its the most amazing feeling that you could ever have."

According to a 2009 study by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, nine in every ten gay students is bullied.