A view from the Summitt

Pat Head Summitt isn't a lesbian...and we aren't the only ones saying so.


Pat Head Summitt stepped down in April from a job she held for 38 years - head coach for Tennessee’s Lady Volunteers basketball team. Summitt did for women’s college basketball in the U.S what Tiger Woods did for golf: They made their sports interesting and relevant to the fans, and because of their groundbreaking efforts, they paved the way for young boys and girls to consider sports opportunities that had never existed before.

So, why would a lesbian writing a lesbian blog even mention Summitt? It is unlikely, despite her strong and assertive personality and commanding knowledge of basketball, that Summitt is a lesbian. Married for twenty five years prior to her divorce, there has never been much fact or fiction to support a secret lesbian lifestyle. Back in the mid-2000’s, there were even assertions that Summitt refused to recruit known lesbians to play for the Lady Vols. I don’t know if this is true but, again, it seems unlikely that Summitt ever strayed from a heterosexual lifestyle.

After hearing all the well-deserved accolades in the media now paying tribute to Summitt’s impact on women’s sports, it occurred to me that she is one of the few women who has not been known to be “accused” of being a lesbian. Sure, the question has been asked, but it has never come up in the media as a hurtful slur.  Looking back on archival coverage of Summitt’s life, I can’t find any evidence linking a lesbian lifestyle with her enormous achievements.

I say this because I have noted that in my lifetime, when heterosexuals, especially men, are intimidated, threatened or just plain mad, they will often refer to the female object(s) of their anger as being lesbians. It has struck me time and again that usually this “insult” is hurled at a woman or women who are incredibly competent or capable.

I recall one incident in my life where I was watching my partner back our trailer into a space at a campground. She is very competent at such maneuvers and didn’t require help at all. Two men approached and started giving her unsolicited advice. My partner ignored them and proceeded to park our rig without heeding their advice.They became so offended that they screamed various insults and concluded she must be a lesbian.

I was standing near some other women onlookers who giggled upon hearing their comment. I told them that I thought it was shame that when some people see women who don’t need a man’s help, their first and last thought seems to be that the women in question are lesbians.

This is a long-winded way of pointing out that Pat Summitt was and is one of the most competent male or female basketball coaches in the history of the sport and she is probably not a lesbian. And while I would love for us lesbians to claim Pat Summitt as one of us, I don’t think we can.

Kim Stewart is a native Californian but now spends her time between New Mexico and Ecuador. She shares her life with her partner of 25 years, their two children, two dogs, three horses and one cat. She has a degree in history from the University of California at Irvine. Kim has been writing for public consumption her entire adult life.

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