It’s Pride Month – a month to celebrate diversity, inclusion and shine a light on the struggles that the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgendered, Queer community faces to this day. We asked our athlete community what Pride Month means to them and Layshia Clarendon stepped up to share their story.
Selected #9 overall in the 2013 WNBA Draft, WNBPA First Vice President Layshia Clarendon currently plays for the New York Liberty. Layshia captured gold with Team USA in the 2018 FIBA World Championships, was named a WNBA All Star and lead the league in total assists for the 2017 season. In the off-season, you can find them on the sidelines providing color commentary for the Pac-12 Network and the NBA. Clarendon is a noted social advocate, speaker and writer, who is often asked to lend their voice and opinions on various social topics. Here are their thoughts on what Pride Month means to them.
“I remember wanting to paint a rainbow on my shoe in college. I was told that it would hurt my brand and I shouldn’t draw attention to myself that way. I did it anyway.
So many of us have had to overcome being told to hide who we are by people we loved and respected. Despite the array of rainbow products and business advertisements we will see during Pride month, it’s not all rainbows and sunshine. Being a queer person still puts you at risk for violence, harassment, and bullying. It’s still difficult to navigate workplaces, religious spaces, and to find community. As a queer black woman, I live at the intersections of being a woman, being black and being gay. In society, we haven’t done a good job of integrating our fight for social justice to include the people who fall into multiple categories of marginalization. We have seen the queer community as a whole not stand up for issues affecting the black community and we have seen the black community not embrace their queer peers. I often ask myself, where do I fall in all of this? What side do I choose when both are at odds? Do I decide to just be queer today and black tomorrow?
That is why if we want to be activists, social justice oriented, good allies or even just good people, we MUST make sure we approach the work through an intersectional lens. It’s why we have to show up for each other and especially for the folks who live on the margins of society. It’s why I fight hard and try to speak out with and for black trans women. They have 3 layers of oppression working against them. Being trans, black, and a woman. Pick any one of those and violence is often lurking too close to home.
My hope for the future is that we are willing to look ourselves in the mirror and ask the hard questions about where our blind spots are. My hope is that we are willing to be wrong, to grow, to change, to be uncomfortable. I hope we are willing to learn. My biggest hope is that we will fight for the people who are the most marginalized and the most different from ourselves – if we do that, we protect ourselves in the end.
As athletes, we know how to come together and work towards a common goal despite a multitude of backgrounds and differences. It’s what makes sports so special. I believe that same attitude can truly make our world a place where people are loved, valued, have equal rights, and can belong and are safe to live freely.”