Fair Play

Edge of Sports. 288 pages. $15.95.

In 2014, Cyd Zeigler knew of two National Football League head coaches with gay children. He took the chance to approach these coaches at that year’s NFL Annual Meeting with an interest to write about their gay children.

The first coach appeared open to the idea, but Zeigler never heard from him again. The second coach took an affront, saying “that’s really private business.” When Zeigler asked to be put in contact with the children, the coach said, “No, I’m sorry. I can’t.”

As support grows for LGBT Americans, Zeigler reveals with this story how an old guard of coaches and management has caused sports to lag behind society overall in social progress on this front. It is one of many topics Zeigler broaches in his new book “Fair Play: How LGBT Athletes Are Claiming Their Rightful Place in Sports.”

The book is a collection of 12 essays that examines lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues in sports.

“Fallon Fox is the bravest athlete in history” was the essay I found most informative. Fox is a male-to-female transgender athlete competing in mixed martial arts. The essay insightfully dissects why Fox does not possess an advantage over her female competitors even though Fox was assigned a gender of male at birth.

The argument presented by Zeigler that MMA fighters compete based on weight class was enough to convince me that it shouldn’t matter that Fox was designated male. As Zeigler writes, “This isn’t [New England Patriots tight end] Rob Gronkowski stepping into the ring with [figure skater] Tara Lipinski. This is two people of similar height, weight, and similar strength competing against one another.”

Zeigler goes further by deconstructing arguments that Fox possesses advanced strength by going through puberty before transitioning. I found most convincing the essay’s section on bone density disparity between black people and white people, which Zeigler drives home by saying, “a black woman is less likely to break her hip than a white male.”

These arguments and the rest of the essay add up to making renowned MMA fighter Ronda Rousey sound transphobic when Zeigler points out that Rousey said she refuses to fight Fox or any transgender fighter. Let alone the disgusting remarks of MMA commentator and former sitcom/reality star Joe Rogan, who said about Fox, “You’re a f------ man. That’s a man, OK? I don’t care if you don’t have a d--- anymore.”

This was the essay I found the most informative, but all of them are excellent — if not in their entirety then with pieces of enlightening information.

The book made me reflect and realize the progress pioneers like NBA player John Amaechi and tennis legend Martina Navratilova made to help LGBT athletes, but barriers remain, as evidenced by the NFL coaches with gay children. Zeigler masterfully informs about LGBT sports history while motivating the reader to help foster progress.

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