“Training Rules” Addresses Homophobia in College Athletics
Jennifer Harris (right)
Photo: Craig Houtz
If you haven’t heard about the film Training Rules, it’s probably because it hasn’t gotten much publicity—yet. This eye-opening documentary focuses on a variety of Penn State college basketball players who were coached by Renee Portland. Portland served as head coach of the women’s basketball team for 30 years, and she required her player to follow three main rules: no drugs, no alcohol and no lesbians.
According to the documentary, Portland was open with her recruits about her distaste for gay individuals. She let it be know to every player that being a lesbian and associating with lesbians was not allowed under any circumstance. If a player violated this “rule,” she would be dismissed immediately. This is what happened to Jennifer Harris in 2005.
“If we were to talk to a lesbian, or if she found out we were a lesbian, she’d take away our scholarship, she’d make sure we’d never play basketball again,” Harris said in the film. “I feared losing my starting spot, my playing time, more harassment or getting kicked off the team altogether.”
Photo By:Nathan A. Smith
Coach Renee Portland watches from sideline
Harris was eventually cut for being a lesbian, and in 2006 she filed a lawsuit against Penn State and the athletic department. She wanted to make sure that this kind of discrimination didn’t happen again, to any LGBT athlete.
According to the website, the film “takes the disturbing facts of the Harris vs. Portland case and personalizes their impact by telling Jennifer's story as well as those of six other women who were victimized through the years. Together they unveil a litany of betrayal, abuse, humiliation and bigotry.”
The filmmaker, Dee Mosbacher recently wrote about the documentary in an article for The Huffington Post. “Penn State settled the Harris case, but that didn't bring an end to homophobia in women's sports,” she said. “Nor is Penn State the only school that has allowed such practices—far from it. And so far there is only one out lesbian who is the head women's basketball coach of a Division I school.”
In other words, we still have a long way to go in order to reach an equal playing field. Hopefully, Mosbacher’s film will help expose the existence of homophobia in college athletics, not only on the women’s teams but also on the men’s teams as well. Incidents like what happened to Jennifer Harris at Penn State happen all over the country, to countless LGBT athletes. It’s time to shed some light on the matter so we can put an end to it. It’s been going on for far too long. Thankfully, “Training Rules” gives a voice to the victims who have had to undergo such discrimination.
Look for Training Rules to be release in February 2010. For more information, visit trainingrules.com.
Blogger Bio: Lyndsey D'Arcangelo is a versatile writer, having experience as a journalist, copywriter, author, freelancer and blogger. She is the author of the Golden Crown Literary Society Award-winning book, The Trouble with Emily Dickinson (also a Lambda Literary Award finalist). Her recent novel, The Crabapple Tree, was published in May 2009. In addition to writing short stories and novels, D'Arcangelo also contributes regularly to a variety of national and local publications. Visit lyndseydarcangelo.com for more information.