National Coming Out Day: Cheryl Reeve

Pride to me is the space to be your authentic self. That’s one of the things I’m most proud about in the WNBA and it’s always been this way. I didn’t really realize it when I first got in the WNBA, but I came out of college athletics. And college athletics is so anti everything that the WNBA is, so I lived a very closeted life for fear of it being used against me in ways that would affect my job. When you get in the WNBA, there’s this freedom, this liberation that you finally get to be yourself. It’s not something you have to fear. As I got older, I realized that being yourself is the most important thing you can do to teach others that being gay isn’t a problem. Normalizing that for those around me helped them accept that for me in this space that it wasn’t about being gay. It was about who I am as a person. And so, pride for me is exactly that: I get to be my authentic self at all times.

I come from a generation where we don’t talk about things. When I think about my generation and generations before me, there were ways in which we weren’t able to live as our true selves. I think one of the most difficult things to experience as a person is to not feel supported. It’s like you’re living life for someone else. And there are so many generations of gay people who lived in fear of retribution. I grew up hearing words like lesbian with such a negative connotation. I grew up feeling like I was “less than” if I was called a lesbian, because that’s how I was made to feel. In high school I received a letter from a friend (that was a little more than friendly) and my parents discovered it. My dad actually sat me down and asked me if I was a lesbian. I wanted to be anything but a lesbian, so I denied that idea and we never had a conversation about it again. I just lived. And I think in living that was their way of knowing.

I experienced walking down the hallway in high school and having a student yell, to my back, “Dyke!” I remember feeling really hurt by it, but it also was really important for me to understand how other people saw me. How people felt about those who they identified as dykes or lesbians. I think that it taught me a lesson, that I was not going to be deterred because I was called a name. I felt actually more empowered and it was more important for me to stand in there and be myself and represent others who maybe didn’t have a safe environment.

You know, if you were in sports, you were labeled a dyke or lesbian. So, I’ve long spent my life in that space. And as each generation has gotten more evolved, there is acceptance, it’s more socially acceptable. In the past if I had someone over for the holidays and was around family, I didn’t introduce them as my girlfriend or my partner. Now, I live in this authentic space of introducing my wife to friends and family, so that has been an evolution.

I think that my experience of being a person who has been marginalized as both being gay and being a woman allows me to recognize more than myself and to want to learn more about other people’s experiences. I think sometimes when you aren’t marginalized and you come from this place of privilege that it doesn’t allow you to see outside yourself because you think everyone is experiencing the same thing as you. I think that marginalization of those two groups has allowed me to be a better leader and to be more empathetic towards many situations. I hope as a coach that I’ve been able to be more than just someone that puts people in spots on the court. I hope that it is about our life’s experiences that we’re sharing together.

It’s really important that we share these experiences that we’ve all had with the next generation. Those that came before this generation need to share our experiences, so they know how far we’ve come and how far we have to go. I think about speaking now, as a gay woman and as a leader of a franchise, about what it means for young people. I don’t recall having that as a young person. I think now, those of us speaking out about our lives could change the course of a young person’s life. When I think about this generation, I love their courage and I want them to keep going. I want them to understand where we came from, how far we have to go, and to merge those two worlds to see how powerful that can be.

Presented by
Xcel Energy

Xcel Energy values the diverse perspectives that drive innovation and discovery. Named a Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality in 2020, they have been on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index for seventeen years. Xcel Energy has also joined the Human Rights Campaign’s Business Coalition for the Equality Act, and believes that LGBTQ people should be provided the same basic protections that are provided to other protected groups under federal law.

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