`Different’ Sex And Sports Through The Ages

The Lavender Locker RoomPatricia Nell Warren was a trailblazer long before she was a front-runner.
In 1969, Warren, then 33, along with about a dozen other women, competed in the Boston Marathon as an act of civil disobedience.
At the time, the Amateur Athletic Union barred women runners from competing in any race that was more than 2.5 miles; the Boston Marathon is 26.2 miles.
“There were a lot of stereotypes about women,” Warren says.
“They thought we were frail and couldn’t handle the stress. People thought our fallopian tubes would fall out.”
When the race began, Warren and her friends unofficially entered the race. Warren finished fourth and became the fifth woman to ever complete the Boston Marathon.
“It was ridiculous,” she says. “We knew we could do it.”
Since then, Warren, 70, has continued to expose the sexual politics of the sports world and introduce readers to the contributions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender athletes.
Her 1974 novel “The Front Runner,” about a track coach who falls in love with his Olympic-hopeful athlete, was the first gay novel to enjoy mainstream success. It has sold more than 10 million copies around the world and been translated
into 10 languages.
Warren’s latest book is the nonfiction “The Lavender Locker Room” (Wildcat Press, $24.95). It’s an anthology of essays chronicling 3,000 years of the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender athletes. The book also looks at athletes who challenged the prevailing notions of what defined masculine and feminine traits. Some of the sports figures featured include boxer Wilhelm von Homburg, pilot Amelia Earhart and jockey John Damien.
“The question of gender and how it’s addressed in sports is an important part of the mix. It affects how gay, lesbian and bisexual athletes are treated in the world of sports,” says Warren, a member of the Gay and Lesbian Literary Hall of Fame.
“In figure skating, there’s a stereotype that grew up around certain styles because of the homophobia in the sport,” she says. “Male figure skaters who were defensive about their heterosexuality would skate more masculine with big jumps. The more artistic style was interpreted as being gay.”
Apart from shattering stereotypes, Warren wants the readers to understand that gay athletes have a place in history.
“It’s time for these stories. Some people think gay athletes have only happened since Stonewall. But that’s not true, and these are not the only athletes,” says Warren, who says she will next write about women in rodeo for http://www.OutSports.com and then explore other sports, including NASCAR and kickboxing. “The important thing is the human side, the athlete’s personal story.”
from The Long Beach Press-Telegram

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