We started the You Can Play Day at UMBC when we recognized the lack of recognition and inclusion that LGBTQ students received in collegiate-level sports. From our very own experience with UMBC sports, we realized that there is a deep level of fear and stigma around having close contact between homosexual and heterosexual athletes, such as in the locker rooms. This, along with the problem of trans-inclusion sports, are the main focuses of our event.
With the You Can Play Day, we wanted to create a day where everyone would be welcome to participate and engage in sport-related activities, regardless of their gender, and without any judgment. We believe it is extremely important that we work towards making UMBC a safer campus, in the sense where everyone, including the LGBTQ community, do not have to worry about their sexual orientation. Having this day on campus will bring our UMBC community closer together, and hopefully open up conversations about what our university can do to better accommodate and treat the LGBTQ community.
We decided to join forces with the You Can Play Project which is a social activist movement that is dedicated to “ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation and/or gender identity” (“You Can Play Project,” 2017). Thankfully because of them, we were able to gain access to several materials and resources that helped us raise awareness for the cause through their website and on campus.
One thing that worked for our project was having the support of not only the You Can Play Project, but the majority of UMBC varsity and club sports. The amount of support we received from these organizations truly helped us raise awareness and educate our campus on the importance of this topic. One thing that didn’t really work out, was the roadblock we faced when it came to getting the support from the athletic sports marketing people. We had hoped to get some freebies to giveaway like they do for the basketball and soccer games, but unfortunately, we were not able to. This was a minor setback along with having to reschedule our event due to rain, but thanks to the support we received from varsity and club sports athletes, we were able to quickly make arrangements and successfully host our event. Next time, we hope to have some freebies to giveaway to participants, and be treated more seriously by the UMBC athletic department. We would also start advertising much earlier than we originally had done, because with our event being scheduled right after spring break, it had slipped many people’s minds.
Our project has changed our relationship to activism because it showed us both the ugly and pretty sides. When hearing about other activist projects, we felt like there were never any ugly sides or obstacles that couldn’t be overcome, but our project showed us that not every obstacle can be overcome. Although we did have some incredible moments while planning and completing our activist project, we also faced some struggles. Our understanding of what activism truly means has definitely changed throughout this project because we were able to first-handedly experience the high’s and the low’s of activism. One thing we learned is that activism truly is something that needs to be experienced. Yes, you can tell stories and share memories of your personal experiences, but those experiences will not necessarily be the same as someone else’s. Everyone experiences activism differently and has a different perspective on the project, even if they are all working on the same project.