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ESPN Writer Kate Fagan on Her Trials of Being a Lesbian Athlete

By DNAinfo Staff on August 19, 2014 8:41am  | Updated on August 20, 2014 8:53am

 ESPN writer and former college basketball player Kate Fagan.
ESPN writer and former college basketball player Kate Fagan.
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Kate Fagan

ANDERSONVILLE — Coming out as gay can be a daunting challenge for someone living a secret life. But imagine coming out as a gay basketball player on a team led by born-again Christians — in an environment where your sexuality is considered a sin. 

That's what happened to Kate Fagan, an ESPN writer and former Colorado University basketball star who will appear at an Andersonville store on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. to promote her new book.

Fagan will be at Women & Children First, 5233 N. Clark St., to read from and answer questions about the book, "The Reappearing Act: Coming out as Gay on a College Basketball Team Led by Born-Again Christians."

In a column published by ESPN in 2012, Fagan told her personal story in a piece about the "turning tide of the gay rights movement in sports."

 Kate Fagan, an ESPN writer and former reporter for the  Philidelphia Inquirer , recently penned a book about her experiences coming out as a lesbian athlete at Colorado University.
Kate Fagan, an ESPN writer and former reporter for the Philidelphia Inquirer , recently penned a book about her experiences coming out as a lesbian athlete at Colorado University.
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Kate Fagan

"I think we were in a space for so long, in sports especially, and in society in general, where there were not really enough examples for younger kids who might be athletes or want to work in the sports world and also identify as gay or lesbian [or] transgender," said Fagan, a 32-year-old Brooklyn resident who played at Colorado University from 1999 to 2004.

She said the time was right to add her voice to the conversation. Former Pittsburgh Pirates owner Kevin McClatchy had just come out, and NFL players like Brendon Ayanbadejo and Chris Kluwe were becoming more vocal about LGBT rights. Her column debuted a year before NBA player Jason Collins came out, and two years before the NFL drafted its first openly gay player in Michael Sam.

Describing the value of publishing "The Reappearing Act," Fagan said she wanted other young gay people who want careers in sports to know "they're not alone."

In one chapter she describes attending a meeting of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, where one teammate poses this question: "Who here struggles with homosexuality?" Another chapter details Fagan's conversation with the mother of a potential recruit who, apparently repulsed, asked about rumors that there were gay women among players and coaches.

While coming out can be a rough and stressful ordeal regardless of gender, "the issues facing female athletes are different than the ones for male athletes," Fagan said.

"Female athletes are reinforcing a stereotype, and male athletes are shattering one and those two events have very different struggles and challenges," Fagan said.

Fagan said lesbians might share their sexuality with only a few people "because they don't want to reinforce this stereotype that, 'Oh, female athletes are gay.'"

"I'm sure anecdotally there's situations where women have felt very comfortable being out and living openly in high school and college sports environments," Fagan said. "But I also think there's a lot of issues that womens sports face when it comes to issues of sexuality with coaches and with players."

After experiencing feelings in junior high that led her to believe she might be gay, Fagan didn't come out until her junior year in college, amid a blossoming romance with an openly gay woman that led her "to be very straightforward about the issue I was facing."

"I could no longer just be like, 'Oh, we're just friends,'" she said.

Her parents worried about how some family and friends might respond but "on the spectrum of how parents can react, they were more in the middle and leaning toward the supportive side."

Her best friend and teammate, however, ditched their friendship in the aftermath of the revelation, Fagan writes in her book.

It was one thing to worry that she was reinforcing a stereotype or would lose friends — but  it was even more painful to feel like her sexuality itself was a sin, Fagan said.

"That was the feedback I was getting when I was in college," Fagan said. "The Christians I was around were clearly of the belief that being gay was against God, and you could not continue to have a relationship with God."

Fagan learned to embrace who she is. But she no longer identifies as a Christian, she said.

And while she thinks she might have questioned her faith regardless as a 20-something college student, she believes she would have been "more open to feeling accepted and wanting to pursue my faith longer if I didn't feel this intense judgment of who I am."

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