Copyright © 2006 Bay Area Reporter, a division of Benro Enterprises, Inc.

Jock Talk:
You're putting me in the hall of what?

If you had told me a year ago that Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson, John Smoltz, Pedro Martinez, and I would all be inducted into the Hall of Fame the same weekend, I would have told you that was about as unlikely as the newly amped up Chicago Cubs being no-hit at Wrigley Field for the first time in five decades.

Well look at that: pigs are flying and hell just froze over.

The National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame held its induction reception at the LGBT Center on Halsted in Chicago Friday, July 24 for this year's nine inductees. Gene Dermody of San Francisco and I were the only inductees who were able to attend. The other inductees include transgender basketball player and activist Kye Allums; World Cup soccer player Megan Rapinoe; gay Major League Baseball umpire Dale Scott; world champion powerlifter Chris Morgan; and professional soccer star Robbie Rogers. Two deceased athletes were also inducted: former NFL player Roy Simmons, and former tennis star Helen Hull Jacobs.

How seven of those sports stars made it into the hall is obvious. They generated headlines with their coming out stories, or performed at the highest level on the biggest stages under the brightest lights as openly gay athletes, or overcame entrenched homophobia to live their lives in defiance of accepted stereotypes – or did some combination of all of those things.

Which poses the question: How the hell did Dermody and I get in?

Dermody is the president of Golden Gate Wrestling Club. He's the founder of Wrestlers WithOut Borders and has competed in every Gay Games, medaling in all of them except the 1994 Gay Games, in which he was injured. He's a founding member of Team San Francisco and is currently serving as a delegate for Team SF to the Federation of Gay Games, an organization for which he has put in three decades of volunteer work while serving as its president, sports officer, and officer of technology. Last year he was the winner of the Tom Waddell Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Gay Games.

Me? In 1982 I walked into the office of my managing editor at the Anchorage Daily News to tell him I was gay, a very quiet act of determination that made me the first openly gay sports editor at a major daily newspaper. In 2011 I founded Equality Coaching Alliance, a network for LGBT coaches and their supporters that now has more than 230 members. In the three decades between those events, I wrote passionately on social issues in sports while covering major sports events, I coached wrestling at high schools in California and Alaska, I joined Dermody in his volunteer work with Team SF, the FGG, WWB and Golden Gate Wrestling, and dabbled through the years as a recreational athlete in softball, rugby, track and field, wrestling, basketball, and soccer.

Dermody and I both came out the same year. Neither of us generated any headlines in doing so. We achieved no lofty attainments as athletes. Our volunteer work has been behind the scenes and out of the limelight. It has often involved taking stands, which made us unpopular with many other people working in our causes. We have found ourselves subject to more verbal abuse and derision from fellow LGBT sports supporters than we ever endured from mainstream individuals or institutions.

"I don't deserve this," Dermody told me in our hotel room the night before the induction. "What can I say to anyone about why I am being inducted?"

"You're being inducted in the Hall of Fame because you sought no fame," I told him. "You're being inducted because you did the things you didn't want to do so that you could give others a chance to compete. Tell them about that."

So that's what Dermody talked about in his speech at the reception. Not about the courage it took to do what he loved to do, but the dedication and discipline it took to do the things he didn't want to do. Attending countless board meetings and teleconferences. Debating and drafting policies. Donating money and time. Organizing and advising countless sports clubs and teams and athletes. The very things most athletes turn their noses up at doing, but which if they are not done sports never become truly inclusive and meaningful and relevant.

Then I spoke about the importance of volunteerism. I told the Chicago audience about the critical role that city played when it stepped up at the last minute to be the host for the 2006 Gay Games and how the city's residents saved the games by sacrificing their time and energy as volunteers. I talked about the vision Gay Games founder Tom Waddell had of harnessing the energy of volunteers to enable us to better our own community and prove our value to our heterosexist neighbors. I talked about how my return to wrestling was fueled by a self-centered desire to win glory, but ended up being rewarded when I discovered opportunities to help others instead.

I never talked about the invasive interviews I had to endure more than 30 years ago when Air Force officers wanted me to tell them about my sexual relationships with my then-boyfriend so they could be sure he was indeed a faggot they should discharge from active service in the pre-"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" era. I didn't tell them about visiting a closeted friend in the hospital after he had been knifed and left for dead in the Kodiak wilderness, or consoling another friend at a gay bar in Anchorage after he had been mugged on his way home one night. I didn't tell them about the wounds I saw inflicted not on myself but on others, the wrongs that compelled me to leave the safety of my own closet and walk into my editor's office, prepared to fight if necessary – the first steps down the path that led to the Hall of Fame.

I didn't tell them about any of the stuff that motivated me. I urged them to do the right things for others because doing right is its own reward.

There were other highlights of the weekend. Bill Gubrud, executive director of the Hall of Fame, told the audience the organization was in preliminary talks with a major local LGBT organization to acquire a real brick-and-mortar presence in a museum. I got to spend a lot of time eating and talking with friends I had met when they were helping to organize the 2006 Gay Games and the Gay Games that have followed. I was able to join the crowd for Out at Wrigley, the Chicago Cubs' annual LGBT game at which the Cubs did their best to propel my beloved SF Giants back into the National League wild card race by going down hitless against the Philadelphia Phillies and Cole Hamels.

But for me the highlight I will remember most was the look in the faces in the audience when I spoke to them about volunteering to make sports possible for their LGBT brothers and sisters. The look in their faces that told me they understood what I meant when I said it was not enough to love sports, it was necessary to make sports accessible and supportive of others.

Now, that's a Hall of Fame moment.

Information on the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame and past years' inductees is available on its website at