Post submitted with input from Alex Boyd, HRC Digital Media Intern

Every March millions of eyes fall on 64 men’s and women’s college basketball teams as sports fans from across the country revel in the “madness” of the NCAA basketball tournaments.

The NCAA has committed itself to equality and inclusion throughout the event selection process, moving 2016-17 championship and tournament games out of North Carolina due to the discriminatory HB2.

In honor of Women’s History Month, HRC highlights five courageous women who are using their voices to bring LGBTQ visibility to college basketball. As fans enjoy March Madness, it is important to keep in mind these players and coaches and their brave decisions to live openly and authentically.

Bree Horrocks, Purdue
According to OutSports, Bree Horrocks became the only publicly LGBTQ player in the women’s NCAA Tournament when she came out as a lesbian last year. This season, Purdue was back in the Big Dance, and the junior center remains the most vocal student LGBTQ leader on college sports’ greatest stage.

Horrocks hopes to reassure younger LGBTQ women that there are people just like them at the highest levels of academic and athletic achievement.

“It's inspiring to see the best athletes in the world being their authentic selves,” she said. “If at the highest level they can be successful and live open and out then why can't college athletes?” Horrocks told Curve Magazine.

As an outspoken advocate at a major basketball program, Horrocks paves the way for future generations of student-athletes to speak their truths and live the most authentic versions of themselves.

Nicholle Aston, Cornell
Cornell senior Nicholle Aston first came out to her team during her freshman year, and she has been embraced by the Ithaca community ever since. Now, she’s giving back to Cornell’s LGBTQ community as an Education and Advocacy Intern at Cornell’s LGBT Resource Center.

While Aston is working her way into the Cornell record books on the court and achieving academic distinctions in the classroom, she also coordinates and leads pro-equality events on campus. Now closer than ever to her truest self, Aston strives to help her peers find the same understanding and acceptance that has defined her college career.

Stephanie White, Vanderbilt
Stephanie White just finished her first season at Vanderbilt, as well as her first season as the only publicly out lesbian head coach in Division I women’s basketball. White has been an outspoken advocate for marriage equality and LGBTQ rights dating back to her time as a WNBA player and coach, Outsports said.

“For me, it’s just about being who I am everyday, and it’s about continuing to spread the message of inclusion, to spread the message of love, to help our student-athletes be the best possible student-athletes that they can be, and creating future leaders who have a voice and feel comfortable and confident enough in themselves to utilize their voice,” White said at HRC’s 2017 Nashville Equality Dinner.

White hopes to lead the Commodores back to the tournament for the 2017-18 season, and set a powerful example for her players in the process.

Julie Shaw, University of La Verne
The 2016-17 season marked Julie Shaw’s fourth year as head coach of the Division III University of La Verne Leopards. In an article she penned for Outsports, Shaw explained how she uses her position to teach both her student-athletes as well as other coaches about the importance of diversity and inclusion.

Shaw does not whitewash the difficulty of being an openly gay coach. Instead, she urges anyone who feels different to “speak even though your voice may shake.” Though not all coaches are ready to share their identities, Shaw urges her peers to act as role models for their players in whatever way they feel comfortable.

Lexie Gerson, Arcadia University
Assistant coach Lexie Gerson recently finished her first season at Division III’s Arcadia University. After coming out to her team a few games into the season, Gerson immediately felt her players’ love and acceptance.

Being vocal about who she truly is has allowed Gerson to feel a part of something bigger than herself, she said to Outsports. 


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