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S2, Ep. 3: Being Courageous with Cyd Zeigler

Cyd Zeigler joins the podcast to discuss times he spoke up for inclusion, his own sporting experience, the creation of Outsports, and how much he loves chocolate and peanut butter in an ice cream sandwich.

Forward Progress is sponsored by Hi-Viz Safety Wear. They’re a leading provider of high visibility apparel. So if you need safety vests or hoodies and jackets in the wintertime to keep your crews safe and warm, give them a call at 888-554-4849 or visit their website at wearitforsafety.com. They also offer in-house logo printing. That’s 888-554-4849. Or wearitforsafety.com. Nobody does Hi-Viz better.

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EPISODE TRANSCRIPTION

Cyd: [00:00:00] I went in the next morning early and I wrote a four paragraph email to this senior vice president of programming thanking him for the presentation, but telling him that I was disappointed because he did not mention gay families. This is important today. This is, what, ’96 ’97. You told why it was important to know why it was important to me. And again, I said thank you very much. So I sent the email. Ten minutes later, I got a phone call from this guy’s assistant. “Rich wants to see you in his office in 30 minutes”, I’m like, oh, no. Oh, no. And now the whole office is there. And so I go to my boss and I say, so this just happened. And she calls the head of the department in. And he’s like, well, you’re going to get fired. I’m sorry, there’s no way I can protect you from doing that. Like, what were you thinking?

Caroline: [00:00:57] Hi, everyone, and welcome to Forward Progress. I’m Caroline.

Soph: [00:01:00] And I’m Sophia.

Caroline: [00:01:01] All right, Sophia, what’s happening in sports since the last time we talked?

Soph: [00:01:05] What has happened in sports? Oh, your boy Dylan Alcott won in the Australian Open.

Caroline: [00:01:10] The Australian Open Instagram account put up a picture of Dylan Alcott and Stefanos Tsitsipas and it was like an Australian Open champion with a fan.

Soph: [00:01:20] That’s good. I like that.

Caroline: [00:01:22] Yeah. And then casually today, I was messaging somebody who’s on the VIS advocacy team, the Voice in Sport advocacy team with me. And her profile picture is her with Stefanos Tsitsipas and I was like, oh my God. He walked by me when I was at Wimbledon and it was so cool. And she was like, oh, I go casually, oh, I go to Wimbledon like almost every year because my friend plays tennis and gets us tickets. And I was like, Who’s your friend? And she was like, oh, she’s called Kristina Mladenovic, she mostly plays doubles. And I was like Kiki Mladenovic! Oh my God! I was like, people just casually have crazy friends who are professional athletes and champions. Anyway…

Soph: [00:02:04] Wait, just quickly, you mentioned the Voice in Sports advocacy team and how you’re talking to people. Can you talk a little bit more about that for our listeners that don’t know what that is?

Caroline: [00:02:14] Sure. So Voice in Sport is an organization that creates content specifically for female athletes. They provide mentorship by collegiate and professional athletes across various leagues, which is super cool, and they advocate for all female athletes on and off the field. So on National girls and women in sports say this year they announced the start of their advocacy leadership team. And so there are about 30 of us working on various projects related to Title nine, government affairs, and diversity and inclusion, and also the media aspects to those kind of subgroups as well; trying to increase representation and inclusion for female athletes at the middle school, high school, collegiate and professional levels so that girls just see themselves in sport in general. I am quite excited and it’s really cool to see some of the athletes from all over the country and on the advocacy team as a whole. There’s just so many women of color. And so I’m like, wow, this is so cool to be one of the few white faces here. Like, it’s great to see all these other faces. Back to the news of sports.

Soph: [00:03:28] Well, let’s just stick with Australian Open. Naomi Osaka stole the show, Holy moly

Caroline: [00:03:33] Fourth Grand Slam

Soph: [00:03:34] And she’s our age.

Caroline: [00:03:35] I know.

Soph: [00:03:36] I was really sad. I do have to admit, I was very sad that Serena lost.

Caroline: [00:03:40] Two of the most powerful women in sport going up against each other. It’s like, OK, somebody has to lose, but I wish they could both win. It was really cool seeing her wear a North Carolina courage hat in her post win press conference and everything, since she’s now a part owner. So that’s cool.

Soph: [00:03:56] Yes, I think it’s so cool that professional women athletes are already supporting other professional women athletes in other sports instead of just waiting till they retire and then giving back. The more that you can support each other, the better. We’re not competing. North Carolina courage are going to be pretty good.

Caroline: [00:04:12] Speaking of soccer the SheBelieves is happening right now. And it’s going on through the twenty fourth. Other soccer news, Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris have adopted a baby girl, which is so exciting.

Soph: [00:04:25] She’s beautiful.

Caroline: [00:04:28] And then on to our fav – Well, my favorite Alpine downhill skier, Mikaela Shiffrin.

Soph: [00:04:36] Yeah, the Cortina Cup’s going on right now. She’s won gold and alpine silver and giant slalom. Oh, and she’s got a bronze too casually.

Cyd: [00:04:44] All right, Sophia. We’re on to our guest for this week’s episode.

Soph: [00:04:47] I am so stoked to have Cyd Zeigler on as a guest. I just have to say his name because I’m bound to mess it up and say his name at some point in the intro, so I’m not going to hide it. He is a commentator and author in the field of sexuality and sports. Zeigler co-founded Outsports and the National Gay Flag Football League. He’s a Stanford grad. He’s a fantastic storyteller. And you will get a taste of that in this podcast. We probably could have talked to him for ten more hours and it would have seemed pretty seamless. It was a lot of fun listening to him. It’s interesting because I had reach out to you, Caroline, about reaching out to Cyd, because I think he’s a great storyteller. And what Outsports does, especially in what we’re talking about, which is hey what are we missing? What stories are we missing? What are we leaving out of the narrative of sport that we should really be including? And Cyd Zeigler is the epitome of everything that we’ve wanted to do. Am I missing anything? No? Well…

Caroline: [00:05:43] Thank you, Cyd, for joining us on the podcast. We’re really excited to have you us.

Cyd: [00:05:50] Thanks for having me. I’m glad to talk to you both.

Caroline: [00:05:52] Awesome. So we always start at the beginning with our guests. What sports did you play growing up? What was your sporting experience like?

Cyd: [00:06:01] Sports, always a part of my life growing up. I grew up in the same town as my dad, and my dad was the state champion, high jumper and an incredible basketball star. So we watched the Boston Celtics, who were really good at the time, and basketball was a part of my life. But I was always afraid of the locker room setting, always afraid of it. I gravitated toward cross-country track because they’re team sports, but they’re being individual sports. And it was just a different feel than being on a team, a team sport in a locker room. It’s just different. And I remember being in the locker room, you know, the cross-country team would go in and put on our stuff and we run out and the soccer team in the fall was always there harassing me, harassing whoever. And once I got to junior high school in high school, I didn’t want to have anything to do with the team sports, the big macho team sports. So I ran track and cross-country. I was pretty fast. I was very fast.

Caroline: [00:06:58] Well, yeah. I mean, you had big shoes to fill too so.

Cyd: [00:07:02] And this was a long time ago and I still have two school records in track, so that was a long time ago. Also, you know, the best athletes in the world don’t come out of Harwich High School in Massachusetts. So it’s not like world class. But yeah. So I ran track and cross-country. I found that as I started winning meet’s and winning MVP awards and winning the titles, that the teasing went away very quickly when I was suddenly team MVP as a sophomore. It’s not a lot of teasing you can do to the best guy.

Soph: [00:07:34] Do you think you kept running and not doing a team sport because you found friends during that or was running..? I’ve heard runners talk about it as an escape, this sort of freeing thing, because you’re not necessarily thinking or that is your time to think. Or was it just you know, I grew up and my dad did track and so that’s what I did and it was natural to you?

Cyd: [00:07:53] I think it was natural to me. It was assumed that I was going to play basketball and run track like my dad. For whatever reason it just had in my head that I didn’t want to do what my dad did. And I think that was part of me not playing basketball as well. So I started high jumping in junior high school and for seventh grade, eighth grade, even in the ninth grade. I was good. I wasn’t in state championship good, but I remember as a junior just thinking, you know, for whatever reason, I didn’t want to do exactly what my dad did. I don’t know why it was a thing in my head. Well, I do know why, because when people would ask me as a kid, it was always you’re going to follow in your dad’s footsteps. You are going to follow your dad’s footsteps. And so I ran track and then I was doing the high jumper that I said, you know what? I’m going to switch to the triple job. I’m done with the high jump. I mean, as a sophomore, I would have been the best high jumper on the team, but that was part of it. Escaping or thinking. Here’s a crazy little quirk that I have. I don’t know, like a little OCD. When I run, I count, I count my steps. I can’t stop counting my steps. So when I would run, I mean, in cross-country, we would train ten to fifteen miles every single day. And I was counting to twenty over and over and over and over. I counted twenty in Spanish over and over and over and over. So I was thinking my mind was just running through the numbers for whatever reason.

Caroline: [00:09:12] Do you still do that now. Running.

Cyd: [00:09:14] Oh it’s awful. It’s awful. And it’s like a game like OK when you’re walking down some sidewalk there are lines in the sidewalk like the concrete slab or count how many steps between each line. And then.

Caroline: [00:09:27] I do that as well. I would always do that.

Cyd: [00:09:30] Oh my gosh, it’s so frustrating. I don’t tell myself, like, randomly walking the neighborhood and getting myself counting and just stops it. I’ll start singing songs to myself. So I stopped counting. And sometimes it always has to get to an even number and sometimes it has to get to a five or ten or fifteen. I mean, it’s really it’s psychotic.

Caroline: [00:09:49] Did you always do that? You when you were running when you were younger?

Cyd: [00:09:52] I definitely did. In high school. I don’t remember. I’m in junior high school. I was twelve when I started. I don’t remember if I did or didn’t. But certainly I remember running down our cross-country course and just counting the steps we had. These weird was like running on ruffled past, running on a ruffled potato chip. It was up and down and up and down. And I would count the steps between each one. And it was like one, two, three. One, two, three, one, two, three, one, two, three. So I definitely did that in high school. I can remember that and see that.

Caroline: [00:10:21] So then you went to college, you chose Stanford. How did you end up choosing Stanford?

Cyd: [00:10:27] I was recruited by Colby College to run track, which is a D three school in Maine, and that’s where I had wanted to go. It was forty five minutes from a cabin that my parents had. I love Maine and that’s where I had my heart set on going. I really liked the coach. And it was kind of on a whim that I applied to Stanford. To be honest, I’d never heard of that before. My parents accountant suggested that it was a really good school and I grew up in a very small low to middle class town. My family was lower class when I was growing up. My dad some nights you would have to go fishing to get dinner. Stanford. I mean, that’s not even on your radar. I have heard of Harvard. I had heard of Brown, I heard of Cornell, but Stanford had never heard of. And so I sent a letter asking for information in 1990 and they sent me back a packet and a little video and I put the video in. The video just showed me all these beautiful things and I started reading like, oh, this is a really good school. Oh this is a really good school. In fact it was I think it was the number one school on U.S. News World Report that year. So I just applied. And when I got in and I went and visited because I thought I have to at least give this place a chance. And I remember they pick you up with prospective freshman week, they pick you up in a limousine at SFO, and then when you enter from one direction is a mile long road. The road is lined with palm trees for a mile. It’s a straight shot straight down at the end, you can see this memorial church is this massive golden mosaic of Christ and its followers. And then behind that are these rolling green hills. And you’re in this limousine, you’re driving down this Partridge’s. And then this campus just opens up to you. And I literally got out of the limousine. I went to the nearest payphone that I could find. I called my mom and I said, this is where I’m going. So literally just that drive, that was it.

Caroline: [00:12:31] Wow. That’s like a movie. They really picked you up in a limousine.

Cyd: [00:12:35] Yeah, they did. I mean, now I’m trying to think maybe they didn’t. Somehow I ended up in a limo.. Somehow I connected it at the airport with a bunch of other kids who were there for the same reason. And we all ended up like four of us in a limousine. Maybe it was that we rented it together, but I don’t know how. Anyhow, this is we’re getting into the weeds.

Soph: [00:12:56] This started off as like Disney Channel original movie. Flies to Stanford. It’s the most beautiful campus and now it’s turned into like witness protection program murder mystery in a limousine.

Caroline: [00:13:08] I like it.

Cyd: [00:13:08] I used to work at Disney Channel. By the way, we can get a date later.

Caroline: [00:13:11] I saw that. Well, actually, let’s get into that now. How did you get started at Disney Channel and what did you do there?

Cyd: [00:13:16] After I graduated from college, I literally just drove to L.A. and started living in this room in my fraternity house at UCLA because I wanted to make movies. And so I just started doing office temp jobs. I ended up in a job at Disney Channel in the sales department. You really want to get into this now? Because it’s a story.

Caroline: [00:13:35] Yeah, I mean, we’re already on it. So here we go.

Cyd: [00:13:38] We can get back to Stanford because I actually played ultimate Frisbee at Stanford.

Caroline: [00:13:41] Yes

Cyd: [00:13:42] For a couple of years. So I was in the sales department at Disney Channel and they had just brought in a new president, a new vice president. And I wanted to get into development where they actually, you know, worked with the screenwriters, worked with the directors and made stuff that was shown on Disney Channel. The department I was in, they were just going to cable operators, trying to get the cable operators to carry Disney Channel. But I wanted to get into development to make the stuff. My whole department had been there for about a year. I was the newest person on the team, just a lowly assistant. My whole department sat in on a presentation by the new vice president of programming development, a guy named Rich Ross. He went on to run Walt Disney Studios. At the was the head of development and programming for Disney Channel, and he gave a presentation about how Disney Channel was going to look at the American family differently. It was going to be single parents. It was going to be kids raised by grandparents. It was going to be mixed race families. He went through a laundry list of different families never mentioned, families raised by same sex couples, families with gay kids. And I was rebellious and went home that night and kind of stewed on that. And I went in early the next morning. I don’t know what I was thinking. I went in the next morning early and I wrote a four paragraph email to this senior vice president of programming thanking him for the presentation, but telling him that I was disappointed because he did not mention gay families. This is important today. This is whatever ’96 ’97. I told why it was important to me, why it was important to me. And again, I said thank you very much. So I sent the email. Ten minutes later, I got a phone call from this guy’s assistant. Rich wants to see you in his office in thirty minutes. I’m Like, oh, no. Oh, no. And now the whole office is there. And so I go to my boss and I say, So umm this just happened. And she calls the head of the department in and he’s like, well, you’re going to get fired. You know, I’m sorry, I- there’s no way I can protect you from doing that. Like, what were you thinking? And I was like, all right. Well, it was good working with you all. So I go upstairs, I sit in his office, and for an hour we talk about the importance of the email that I sent. He happened to be gay, which I didn’t know. Had a long term. And he said, I want you to go to work for me. So this crazy email that I should have never written in a million years to the most powerful person in the company, from the least powerful people of the company, I ended up getting the job I want.

Soph: [00:16:09] Well, I don’t think that you shouldn’t have written that.

Caroline: [00:16:12] Yeah, I think that definitely exemplifies who you are, who you have been and everything that you’ve worked on. You have always had that in you speaking up.

Cyd: [00:16:22] I’ve definitely been rebellious. I remember I was the editor of the high school newspaper. I wrote a column. So girls could wear hats to school, but boys couldn’t. And I said, this is ridiculous. How can you have this policy? And the principal said, well, the kinds of hats that girls wear are different than the kind of hat that boys wear. And the girls hats are nice and boys hats aren’t and I’m like, what?

Soph: [00:16:44] This is absurd.

Caroline: [00:16:44] So arbitrary.

Cyd: [00:16:47] I’m not kidding. So I was editor of the newspaper. I wrote this article. This is ridiculous on its face. It runs, nothing changes. A month later, I wrote a second follow up column and the principal had to OK the newspaper before it printed. He ok’d the first one. The second one, he called me into his office. He said Cyd, there’s a way to do this and we’ve got to do this and rounding up the students is not the way to do it. And I said, well, why isn’t it changed? He said, what if I change it? What if I say the boys to wear hats? I said, then I won’t run the OP ED. He said, done, boys can wear hats, from now on. And it was a dumb little thing like but I have always had this thing where when I see something that’s not right, I feel like I need to fix it.

Soph: [00:17:31] And that’s important. Regardless of whatever your status is in a company or what your voice is in a world, whether it’s student and principal, because otherwise things aren’t going to get changed.

Cyd: [00:17:41] Absolutely.

Soph: [00:17:41] I think if you can be better and somebody can tell you how to do it, you should listen to them, even if they’re not senior or even if they’re not whatever, if you can get better. Wouldn’t you want to be told how?

Cyd: [00:17:56] Sure, but this was before you two were born. (laughter) You’re absolutely right. Society then was even just 20 plus years ago was extremely different. You know, the need to listen to what your boss or your parents told you about life and how you have to live. It was just accepted like that’s what you had to do. And it was only really, I think in the 90s that really started to change. For you all, social media has just elevated your voices and your generation is just looking at authority in extremely different ways than we did growing up in the 80s and 90s. So you’re absolutely right. Of course, you should write that email, but twenty five years ago. No, no, no, no.

Soph: [00:18:47] I understand what you’re saying. It’s a different time and place because my mother always said my grandmother said kids are to be seen and not heard. And I always thought, OK, yes, seen and not heard. But like, if the kitchen’s on fire, you’re going to want me to tell you, right? You’re you’re going to want to know when something’s wrong. Right. And so I guess.

Caroline: [00:19:04] Well, OK, going back to Stanford, we were way.

Soph: [00:19:07] All right. Never mind. All right. Go back to –

Caroline: [00:19:09] We got to go back. I want to know how you got into ultimate Frisbee.

Soph: [00:19:13] Oh, yeah.

Cyd: [00:19:14] My freshman dorm, they would play it. I’d never heard of it, but my freshman dorm would play it. I was fast and there was just a field right behind my freshman dorm and they played all the time. There was somebody out there playing all the time. So I just started playing it and really liked it and tried out for the Stanford team. The Stanford team, I don’t know how it is now, but back then, I mean, they were in the conversation for a national championship every single year and they’d won championships before. A friend of mine who was the captain of the team encouraged me to try out. Actually, I remember what happened now before my junior year. This friend of mine who was the captain of the team, and he and I drove from Massachusetts to Stanford. That’s how we got the school that year. And you’re in the car with somebody for eight or nine days, talk about everything. And he was just like, you should it should come out for the team and try out. And so I tried out. They had like an A team and a B team. I was a junior. So it was a little late for me to be trying out for a team. And, you know, there were the final spot in the A team. Top team came down to me and a kid who was a freshman and they gave it to the freshman and one of the captains said, listen, he’s going to be on the team for the next four years. We might get two years out of you. We’re giving the spot to him. So I played on the essentially the JV team, but we still you know, it was still a very good team. You know, I think we were top twenty five or top thirty in the country, but it was great. It was the ultimate Frisbee is such an exciting sport and it’s great to see it on ESPN from time to time now. And you’ll see, I mean, it’s funny, ESPN as these top ten plays and I’ll see it littered with, like baseball and and like, oh, there’s another dunk or oh, there’s a guy like, oh, that was the ultimate Frisbee has the craziest plays. Hundred yard touchdowns all in the air like these people can throw the Frisbee so far and people are so fast. All you need is two fingers to catch a thing, not like a football. You can, you can just lay out horizontally and at the last second just snatch that disk from the ground. It’s it is just special sport.

Caroline: [00:21:18] Yeah, I know my brother played an ultimate Frisbee rec league for a few years in Washington, D.C. It’s definitely intense. And I mean, you have to be athletic and be able to run and everything like that.

Cyd: [00:21:30] It is the most exhausting sport ever played. I mean, soccer is lots of jogging around and then an occasional burst and ultimate is burst after first after first after burst after birth. It is it’s exhausting.

Soph: [00:21:43] And then the turnovers, it’s like, imagine you’re playing football and there’s an interception. And then like the other team immediately starts on offense. There’s no like break in between. And you have brand new set of people. It’s like you’re always on offense and defense and everything all the time. It goes really fast.

Cyd: [00:21:58] It’s like basketball in that way, except it’s a hundred yards field. So much ground to cover.

Soph: [00:22:06] Except you’re sprinting and diving. Yeah, I wish the SportsCenter top ten would show more sports. We always like talking about the odd sports like skeleton and bobsled or figure skating and.

Caroline: [00:22:17] Or just I mean any woman sports is good.

Soph: [00:22:20] God forbid. That’s you’re stretching it too far.

Cyd: [00:22:24] Yeah. You’re you’re out of control. Contain yourself. No letter writing for you, miss.

Caroline: [00:22:29] Yeah. I’m going to write a letter to ESPN right now. Tell them.

Soph: [00:22:33] Yeah. I’m sure they’ve never been told they need to include more women.

Caroline: [00:22:35] That just goes directly to spam. The titles like include Women’s Sports, Right to Spam.

Cyd: [00:22:40] They have a filter on the other email. It just goes

Caroline: [00:22:46] Automatically-

Cyd: [00:22:46] They don’t even see it.

Caroline: [00:22:50] Forward Progress is sponsored by Hi-Viz Safety Wear. They’re a leading provider of high visibility apparel. So if you need safety vests or hoodies and jackets in the wintertime to keep your crews safe and warm, give them a call at 888-554-4849 or visit their website at wearitforsafety.com. They also offer in-house logo printing. That’s 888-554-4849. Or wearitforsafety.com. Nobody does Hi-Viz better.

Caroline: [00:23:23] Ok, big question here. So I only knew about Outsports for a few years now. Obviously have been a little more involved with it over the past year and a half with school and writing my own story and being a part and attending seminars as well. But I want to know what led you to the creation of Outsports.

Cyd: [00:23:43] So in 1999, the idea of gay men in sports was completely foreign. It wasn’t talked about. It wasn’t covered in the media. I mean, Greg Louganis had come out. Mark Tewksbury, who was a Canadian Olympic swimmer, had come out. There were so few athletes how had come out as gay or lesbian. And we knew about Martina and we knew about Billie Jean. That was it. And the atmosphere- I had a friend who works for a WNBA or an NBA team that had a WNBA team, and he said, oh, the league tells women do not come out. Flat out tells them. So that was nineteen ninety nine. And it was at the height of one of the tech booms. And the Internet was this new uncharted territory. Jim Buzinski, who I had met at L.A. Pride, we had been playing in the gay flag football league in L.A. together. We were on vacation on Cape Cod and we were sitting at a little cafe in Chatham, just right at the elbow of the Cape, about a half hour from Provincetown. And he was reading, I think it was The New York Times and I was reading Sports Illustrated. And we just started talking about how like God, does nothing in Sports Illustrated that’s gay. And if I were to write an article about football as a game, I’d write it so differently from how they write it. The New York Times at the time was was littered with articles about the Internet. And we just said, you know what, if we just tried to I don’t know how to do it, but just start a website by ourselves, like, let’s just start talking about it. We’ll talk about mostly the NFL from the perspective of gay men. And so that’s what we did. It was just it was an NFL blog by two gay guys. Very quickly, people started asking us, can you write about the NHL? Can we just start writing about more and more and more and more sports? Very male centric, because it was just the two guys in their living room, like doing whatever we want.

Caroline: [00:25:27] Yeah.

Cyd: [00:25:27] Over time we started hearing from gay athletes and we’re like, we should run more these stories like. And then I wrote one about Brian Simms, who was an elected official in Pennsylvania, who was the captain of his football team. And that really got a lot of attention. He got a GLAAD award nomination for that, that was our first one. And then we said we need to do this more. And so we just started telling more and more and more and more stories. And that’s where “courage is contagious,” Our motto came from because every time he ran one, we heard from two more people. So it was like a domino effect. And no one else was doing this. Nobody else was writing about gay athletes. It just wasn’t talked about. And trans athletes like wasn’t even on the radar screen. And then slowly over time, you know, we would run the occasional story about women in sports or about a woman in sports. And we just realized, you know, we need to do that part better. So we started doing that part better. You know, talking to Helen Carol and Pat Griffin, the idea was, you know, women, lesbians in sports, women can be out in sports is not a big deal, but really understanding. OK, yes, there are a lot more out women in sports than there are out men. However, that creates a whole other dynamic of pressures and issues that we need to be talking about. So, you know, talking to Helen and Pat, really, I think that was a big part of changing our perspective.

Caroline: [00:26:42] Now, what progress do you think needs to occur in sports for more LGBTQ+ acceptance?

Cyd: [00:26:50] I mean, I’ve had this view for a long time, so trans issues are separate. I don’t have the answers for that. For LGBQ, people have to come out. I mean, I’m of the belief that the level of acceptance in sports is so vastly higher than anyone gives it credit for. I don’t know of an athlete who’s LGBQ, who’s come out on their team at any level and faced physical violence, then harassed. I’m sure it’s there, but it is just so different. And the more people who come out, everyone shines a light on that, that, yeah, I thought my teammates were going to hate me and they actually, like, applauded when I came to them. So to me that is the biggest thing. And to get there, it’s helping athletes see that sports is safe. So convincing athletic departments and coaches put a rainbow sticker on your door. Just mention your boyfriends and your girlfriends and you’re talking about relationships with your team. Just talk about it because the acceptance is largely there. It’s just we need to see that acceptance.

Soph: [00:27:55] First of all, I love that you said, you know, different ways that coaches or leaders in their environment can signal I’m a safe person that you can come out to. I’m a safe person that you can be around if they’re already out. And just for those that don’t know, like the LGB part is lesbian, gay and bi. And then the Q part is queer, which is sort of an umbrella term that encompasses a lot of different sexualities because we understand that gay and lesbian and bi aren’t the only ones. And then the T would be trans, which is sort of talking about how the ways in which you are trans in gender. Gender and sexuality are two different things completely. That’s just sort of like the 101 section of it.

Caroline: [00:28:35] Very sociological.

Cyd: [00:28:35] That was good.

Soph: [00:28:36] I think that’s a safe assessment to say that, OK, athletes that are trans are facing unique problems that are different than those that have different sexualities that are not straight, essentially because trans athletes are not in the cis-tem C-I-S-T-E-M, cis-tem. (cis referring to society being cisnormative.) I think what needs to happen, which is really important, is the political change. And I know people don’t like talking about politics, but the reason why people can be out and be safe is because they’re protected politically. And not just getting married, but like you don’t get fired from your job if you’re gay or if you’re or whatever, and you can have relationships and have services like I can get a loan or I can buy a home or I can get a car, I can buy whatever, I can be a normal person in society without being persecuted against. So until we have more legislation and policies that protect trans people, it’s going to be really hard for them to find social acceptance in sport. And usually and Caroline and I’ve talked about this before, that the progress in sports usually precedes the policies.

Caroline: [00:29:37] Of society. Yeah, I think said what you said, just more people coming out and more people being open because sports, I think just in my mind, like sports, are for everybody. I think that’s why I’ve always loved the Olympics so much. It’s like everybody comes together for that month, just like you see people’s differences. But you’re all the same because you’re all working towards this one goal and you just all love whatever sport you’re playing. And so I think just more people coming out, more leagues openly talking about it and having the discussions and being supportive, like we saw the WNBA release statements on Layshia Clarendon, which was awesome to see that they were so supportive of laser surgery and how key they have been within the league and within movements and everything like that. So I definitely agree with you on all that.

Cyd: [00:30:25] All well said. The policy thing. Like I said, the trans acceptance issue is completely different, takes education, takes exposure, it takes policy. It’s it’s a very different situation.

Soph: [00:30:37] You know what’s funny? Layshia Clarendon just tweeted, “My deepest fear was that my peers in this league would reject me. On the contrary, I received the most authentic love and support. I’m proud to stand together like we always do. We flip Senate seats, we stand on the front lines. We always push forward. Come for one, come for all.”

Cyd: [00:30:55] It’s interesting. It’s sad that Layshia would think that the players would not support them. That said, it just shows you how important it is to be overt with your support and love for the community because you never know who needs it. I remember years ago talking to Jim Mora, who was the head football coach at UCLA, and I was engaging with UCLA on various things. And I suggested to him that he just talked to his team about, you know, if you’re gay, I’m here for you. This is what you can do. He said I don’t have any gay players. And I said, Jim, I know one of your players who was gay. And he looked at me like, what do you mean? I said, Jim, he’s afraid to talk to you about it. I know a player on your team who is gay. And it was just just like light bulbs going off like, oh, my God. Like there could actually be gay people on my team. Like, that’s real. I mean, it’s amazing how many coaches just assume that there’s nobody LGBTQ on their team, which is that’s insane. But that’s a reality, unfortunately. And again, it’s Layshia’s tweet shows why the overt support is so important.

Soph: [00:32:04] I totally agree. It’s kind of sad that Layshia didn’t feel like she would already get that support, especially considering the league is considered to be one of the more forward thinking leagues in terms of professional sports in America and possibly globally. I think there are a lot of people that will say, I don’t care who you sleep with, like I don’t really care, or there are coaches that sort of make generalizations like it’s not a big deal to them, but there’s a ton of pressure to say the right things and do the right things and to not alienate yourself from the team or to not make yourself look different and feel different. So the fears of your athletes can be so much bigger than the way other people are going to react to you. Like most people are going to be like, yeah, I love you. I don’t really care. It’s like, well, you know, I’ve been sweating this for like ten years. So maybe it is not a big deal to you, but this could be like a big deal to them. And that’s what I think of. Like when coaches say the. Shocked that there’s a gay player, it’s it’s not because they didn’t get to know their players, but it’s just maybe you didn’t say something that would have made it very clear that you get accepted and maybe you said something where it made it clear that they don’t care. And that’s not exactly what you mean when you say you don’t care. You know, I actually do care. I love you with all that you are. That would mean that I care when people say they don’t care, it kind of seems like, oh, maybe they’re going to be indifferent to me or maybe they’ll change their thought when they know who I really am.

Cyd: [00:33:24] Yeah, absolutely, but.

Soph: [00:33:25] That wasn’t a question haha sorry

Cyd: [00:33:25] People who will tell me something and I say I don’t care. It’s like, no, no, no, that’s I don’t mean I don’t care. I mean, it doesn’t matter. No, no, that’s not right either. Like, I love you. Like, I don’t know what to say.

Caroline: [00:33:38] Yeah.

Soph: [00:33:38] Right. I don’t think bad about you…?,

Cyd: [00:33:42] Like again which sounds so weird (laughter)

Caroline: [00:33:47] All right, so are two recurring questions, number one, what is a sport that you wish you saw more of or knew about growing up?

Cyd: [00:33:56] Growing up? Football. My school didn’t have a football team. There was a kid in the 60s, I think it was, who was killed, broke his neck and died playing football. And so the school got rid of it. They have it now again. But football. I love football. I love how the team works. I love that there are so many different components that all have to work together perfectly for success or at least work together well. I said before that I was scared of playing team sports. If my school had a football team and I had really found my passion for football then that I have now, I might have played football. I wish I had played football. But yeah, I know. It’s like, wait a second. The most popular, most televised sport in America. That’s what you wanted to see more of. But I got very little exposure to football as a kid.

Caroline: [00:34:48] I have to say that your school didn’t have football for a while. It seems very like Footloose-y, you know,like…

Cyd: [00:34:54] It’s so 2019!

Caroline: [00:34:56] OK. And our final question, this might be our favorite one. What is your ideal ice cream sandwich?

Cyd: [00:35:04] Ice cream sandwich? Well, I like explosion ice creams and by explosion ice cream. I mean, it’s got peanut butter. It’s got fudge, it’s got caramel, it’s got cookie dough, it’s got turtles. It’s got like everything you can imagine. That’s what I love. Just you can’t have enough stuff in ice cream.

Soph: [00:35:22] So an ice cream doing drag.

Cyd: [00:35:24] So I thought it would probably be I would be some kind of peanut butter ice cream that was chocolaty as well, like peanut butter, chocolate ice cream. And then the cookie. I don’t know. I love ice cream. So the cookie, I don’t maybe traditional chocolate chip. I know that’s so boring, but.

Caroline: [00:35:47] It’s good.

Cyd: [00:35:47] Butter and chocolate. It’s a peanut butter. Chocolate. You’ve got a chocolate and then the chocolate chips. Actually, no, I take it back. I think you’re ready. I make these peanut butter, chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter, chocolate ice cream with peanut butter, chocolate cookies. That’s it.

Soph: [00:36:04] Wow.

Cyd: [00:36:05] Essentially a Reese’s peanut butter cup. Ice cream sandwich.

Caroline: [00:36:09] I like that.

Cyd: [00:36:10] I like that the ice cream sandwich question is the hardest question to answer.

Caroline: [00:36:13] Yeah. People have found that, which is which is interesting. But.

Soph: [00:36:17] Everyone said that’s the toughest question. So Caroline and I clearly have to go back to the drawing board and come up with better questions before that one.

Caroline: [00:36:24] Yeah, I guess. No! We’re building them up. We’re building them up for that one.

Cyd: [00:36:28] And now I know my dream. ice cream sandwich,

Caroline: [00:36:31] Peanut butter, chocolate, peanut butter, chocolate, more peanut butter, chocolate.

Cyd: [00:36:35] Absolutely. Roll it in like chocolate sprinkles too. So the edge of it as. Chocolate.

Soph: [00:36:42] Chocolate syrup?

Caroline: [00:36:44] Too much.

Cyd: [00:36:45] I don’t know that chocolate syrup works on a sandwich.

Soph: [00:36:48] OK,

Cyd: [00:36:48] I suppose use it like ketchup. You could put a little bit on on the cookie.

Soph: [00:36:52] Dip it.

Caroline: [00:36:54] Dip it in hot fudge.

Cyd: [00:36:56] Oh no. You know they make that chocolate sauce that hardens.

Caroline: [00:37:00] Yeah.

Cyd: [00:37:01] Dip half of the sandwich in that and roll the other half with jimmies. in sprinkles.

Caroline: [00:37:05] Jimmies.

Soph: [00:37:07] See I’m not the only crazy person that calls them-

Caroline: [00:37:09] I know. And he’s on the West Coast. Jeez.

Cyd: [00:37:11] Well no. I grew up in New England. But that’s why you say sprinkles now. But every once in a while,Jimmies comes out

Caroline: [00:37:18] You have to conform.

Soph: [00:37:19] He’s jaded now. He’s he’s been in California for a long time.

Cyd: [00:37:22] Well, the people just don’t know what the hell I’m talking about – what the heck I’m talking about! Sorry.

Caroline: [00:37:25] You’re fine

Soph: [00:37:27] And I’ve said worse things. It’s fine.

Caroline: [00:37:30] Yeah, you’re good.

Caroline: [00:37:31] Well, thank you so much Cyd for joining us on our podcast. And we know a lot more about you now. And there’s so much more to you. And we will certainly encourage our listeners to follow you and to follow Outsports. It’s important.

Soph: [00:37:46] Go gays!

Cyd: [00:37:48] You two are fun.

Caroline: [00:37:49] Thank you. We try. Maybe a little too hard sometimes, but.

Soph: [00:37:55] He is so awesome. That was such a good conversation. I wish that it went on and on and on.

Caroline: [00:38:03] Me too it was good.

Soph: [00:38:04] He’s very gracious with his time too

Caroline: [00:38:07] Definitely there were some stories that I didn’t expect to hear. I mean, pulling up to Stanford in a limousine and then questioning how he got into that limousine was interesting. But I think just hearing about how he was kind of always, as he put it, rebellious. But I think just standing up for what he saw was right from the beginning, whether it was in high school when boys weren’t allowed to wear hats or when he worked at Disney and blatantly spoke to one of the highest ranking people in the company, that gay and queer people weren’t included in their vision.

Soph: [00:38:45] And that that person was also gay.

Caroline: [00:38:48] So those stories were unexpected and awesome to hear.

Soph: [00:38:52] Yeah, I had a lot of fun. I think the really interesting thing for you and I is we were babies when it Cyd was making this hey and, you know, kind of sticking his neck out. And as he was saying, like, that wasn’t OK at the time. And I think now it’s pretty natural for you and I to to be honest and give feedback. And we’re not really afraid to do that. I don’t think there’s that same environment and that same culture, which..

Caroline: [00:39:21] Even more recently, Billie Jean King had said she lost all of her sponsors within twenty four hours of her coming out. And now so many athletes are able to come out and just be open without the worry that they’re going to lose everything.

Soph: [00:39:37] I think it’s still scary because Billie Jean King is still alive. And like, you know, a lot of us look,

Caroline: [00:39:43] It’s a short period of time, but.

Soph: [00:39:45] It’s so short to say for us to say, like, oh, so much has happened and so much is better. It’s like, OK, yeah, things might be better. And in California, where Cyd’s at and then New York, New Jersey where we’re at. But like, there’s so much else going on. So like who is it really better for? And I’m appreciative of Billie Jean King and Megan Rampinoe and Sue Bird and Elena Della Donne acknowledging like, oh yeah, we’re also white women and that’s really benefited us in this whole process. And I also think, like being queer or fitting anywhere under the umbrella is this incredibly powerful thing where you have knowledge of who you are. And sometimes even though you face discrimination or you face, you know, whatever it is in your personal life or your professional life, I think Cyd told us great stories of what you can do when you’re really brave and honest and you can find community in that. So I look to Cyd and he’s a great reminder of the things that are possible. Yeah, this one was a lot of fun. Thank you again to Cyd Zeigler for coming on and talking to us for a little bit. You’ve offered up a platform to so many people for them to be themselves where that platform was never offered before. No one was really allowed to do it. So now there’s so many more people that are coming out and the more people that come out, the better it’s going to be for everyone else.

Cyd: [00:41:07] Also I just think it was so brave of them to start a website when nobody knew how to do it. just Starting out. It was so brave of them. (fake tears), oh, well,

Soph: [00:41:22] You’re ridiculous.

Caroline: [00:41:23] I know.

Caroline: [00:41:35] Forward Progress is produced by Caroline Mattise with a little help from Sophia Lewin.

Soph: [00:41:39] True.

Caroline: [00:41:40] And is brought to you by Best Available Player. Find more podcasts, articles and video content related to sports and entertainment on bestavailableplayer.com. All the music in this podcast is by James Barrett, a good friend and an even better musician. Be sure to check him out on your favorite music streaming platform. And because we’re all about inclusivity and accessibility, each podcast of Forward Progress will be transcribed and available on bestavailableplayer.com.

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