Out or In: Why Some Sports Are Still In-Between for LGBTQ Athletes


Thursday, August 29, 2019    
2:45 pm - 3:45 pm


444 St Charles Ave, New Orleans
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Where are the major sports when it comes to LGBTQ visibility and participation? In the six years since Jason Collins came out and five since Michael Sam came out and was drafted, we have yet to see much progress from the major men’s sports, even as the pro men’s leagues make progress in their own policies. But that experience is very different from inclusion in women’s pro sports, or what we’ve seen in amateur athletics at the international, K-12 and collegiate levels. Is there an observer’s paradox, where media attention paid to some sports has an impact on athletes’ choices to come out publicly?

Moderator: Sara Johnson
Panelist: Katie Barnes, Michelle Garcia, Christina Kahrl

KATIE BARNES (they/them/their) is an award-winning journalist for ESPN and espnW, covering culture, LGBTQ issues, women’s basketball, collegiate softball and women’s combat sports. Since joining ESPN in August 2015, Barnes has written on myriad topics, such as transgender athletes, campus sexual assault, sports leagues incursion into public policy, racial justice and Hollywood stunt doubles. Their article on two high school transgender athletes earned them a GLAAD Award nomination for Outstanding Magazine Article. Barnes holds a degree in history, Russian studies and American studies from St. Olaf College, and master’s degree in student affairs and higher education from Miami University (Ohio). They were the 2017 NLGJA Journalist of the Year.

MICHELLE GARCIA is the deputy editor for Vice.com’s News & Issues desk. Garcia has covered major social movements across the U.S., including the fight for marriage equality, #MeToo, and the Movement for Black Lives, to name a few. She was named to Folio’s list of 20 in their 20s, won a GLAAD Media Award with her staff about the advancement of the HIV treatment drug Truvada, taught at CUNY Graduate School Journalism and has coached several writers along the way. Previously, Michelle was an editor at Out, Vox, Mic and The Advocate.

SARA JOHNSON (she/her/hers) is a feature producer responsible for producing and directing a wide range of compelling content for ESPN, including studio specials, long-form video features, profile pieces and social media content. Prior to this role, Johnson was espnW’s director of video production focusing on strong female-lead stories for ESPN’s women athletes and fans. She also spent 10 years with Studio Directing as an associate director, then director on numerous ESPN studio shows and remote events. Before joining ESPN in 2005, Johnson spent several years freelancing on television and film productions and as a publicist for music and non-profit public relations firms. Johnson currently serves as content chair of ESPN EQUAL, an award-winning volunteer business employee resource group of which she is a founder, whose mission is to help foster a workplace where LGBTQ+ employees are accepted, included and welcomed as well as encouraged to share their unique perspectives on the business to best serve fans.

CHRISTINA KAHRL is a senior editor for MLB coverage at ESPN, a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America since 2009, and was one of the founding members of the baseball think tank, Baseball Prospectus. She also came out publicly as a transgender woman in 2003, becoming the first out trans woman working in sports journalism. She has also worked as an activist on civic equality for transgender Americans, helping to reform Chicago police policy on transgender individuals, train police departments throughout the Midwest in cooperation with the Department of Justice and writing on trans issues in mainstream society and sports for ESPN, Cosmo.com, Playboy, the Windy City Times and elsewhere. She has also been active on the boards of GLAAD, Equality Illinois and NLGJA. She has been elected both to the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame and the Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame. She lives in Connecticut with her wife.

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