Kendra Fisher shares her experiences of being a gay athlete and why she feels that for her being open about her sexuality is a social responsibility
mentallyfit is presented by Kendra Fisher
Podcast length:12 mins
In this episode Kendra Fisher tells her story of being a gay woman in sport and how she came to understand that being out in her community and to the public that followed her was a social responsibility. She explains that the perception that is sometimes held of sexuality contributing to mental illness was not her reality. She said: “ Thinking back in those moments and given this perspective that I was being offered I realized that had I not felt safe in those places had I not been free to be who I was to love who I love and to have that open support of my partner there with me in those moments. I don’t know that it would have been the same space for me to exist in, in relation to my mental illness.” Kendra’s message of being true to yourself and being open about who you love provides stability and critical support especially when you need it the most.
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[00:00:03] Hello and welcome to mentally fit the podcast that discusses topics relating to mental health in LGBTQ issues. I’m Kendra Fisher Canadian hockey goalie and if you’re a new listener to this show you can hear my previous episodes at sports dot com where you can also find the full transcripts on all the shows. If you go to the page under LISTEN and just click on mentally fit this show gives me a chance to share my experience with you in person of advice on how to cope with issues pertaining to mental illness and LGBT issues. It’s so important in this role to know that you are not alone and that we have the tools to call on them when we need them. I spent a lot of time giving talks on these subjects and on this episode I actually want to share my story on how I became an LGBTQ advocate which is actually a rather new thing for me. Not not that it’s been new in my life it’s I’ve lived as a gay woman now for many years and openly. However I guess I didn’t realize how how I was being missed by me not talking openly about my sexuality. Growing up in Canada as a female hockey player I feel like oftentimes I fell into a stereotype of what people assumed would be a gay athlete and I’d imagine that if you spoke to some of my teammates who do not identify as LGBTQ I would bet that they probably had more struggles convincing people that they were straight being female hockey players than it was for me.
[00:01:46] And I think with that assumption just kind of came this unspoken safety and that was the key in my world it was unspoken. And I know if you listen to any of my previous shows you know that I went through a rather intense diagnosis with mental illness and had to learn to cope and live with mental illness. And I guess for the same reason I always hesitated to get into advocacy around LGBTQ issues because I was really scared people would just draw natural parallel and I was worried that the parallel would be she must have struggled with her sexuality and therefore the result was mental illness. And that’s not my story that’s not my story at all. And it was always a piece that when I started my journey of sharing my story I left out of my story.
[00:02:35] I didn’t feel the need to to share information around my partners or my choices in my personal life simply because it wasn’t relevant to my mental illness. It was around the 2014 Sochi Olympics actually that I was approached by an organization called you can play a group that works in I guess helping inclusion and equality in sport as pertains to to sexuality and they had asked me if I’d be willing to come out and speak at a roundtable with them and the Canadian Olympic Committee and the event was actually being held around the formation of one team which was a group that was being put together here in Canada by by our Olympic Committee and some additional groups in order to kind of counter what was happening around the Sochi Olympics and sexuality and the fear of going to the Olympics as an open openly homosexual individual given the stance in Russia against sexuality. And I went to this group thinking I didn’t necessarily have a lot to offer because I didn’t feel as though I had had a struggle. I didn’t feel as though my story was one that seemed relevant. I was somebody who had had issues in my life and had dealt with issues but they were not really relevant to my sexuality or my sexual preferences. And I had had relationships while I was playing hockey and they were just accepted they weren’t spoken of. It was just accepted that those were my my partners at the times.
[00:04:15] And you know it was never really an issue and what I never realized was how lucky I was how fortunate I was to have been given that safe space to be my own person. And when I went into this roundtable again as I said I went in thinking maybe I don’t have a lot to offer but as I sat there and I listened to all of the other stories of people who maybe were struggling dealing with gender issues or struggling dealing with how teammates treated them based on their sexual preferences were struggling with a lot of the language in the locker room around. I guess what some people mistakenly and ignorantly feel is motivation a little bit throwing slang around as having that be a depiction of what a man should be or what a woman should be and and the words that we used to I guess negatively. I’m beyond how anybody thinks it’s motivating but motivate people to be stronger and be better. And I started hearing these stories and I started thinking just how relevant it was for me to share my story because what I realized was there was this piece that overlapped for me in the piece that was I’ve said it before and if you actually go back through the other shows I had a conversation around how hockey really saved my life how sport saved my life. And it was what I learned in sport that enabled me to learn how to live with mental illness. And it was that environment. It was actually the only environment that I found even remotely tolerable when I was at my worst.
[00:06:00] And thinking back in those moments and given this perspective that I was being offered I realized that had I not felt safe in those places had I not been free to be who I was to love who I love and to have that open support of my partner there with me in those moments. I don’t know that it would have been the same space for me to exist in in relation to my mental illness. And I started to realize that there was this whole kind of paradox because it was if I didn’t have that safe place would I have survived a mental illness. And had I not had the story that I do have which was one of support in my sexuality in my sporting environment would that have changed everything for me. And in that moment I realized that the failure of not sharing how relevant that was in my life was epic. And I guess that’s what brought me full circle. That’s what brought me to a place where I now work as an ambassador for you can play sport and do my best to help people understand just how important it is to always create an environment where people understand their worth and their value and and sexual preference doesn’t doesn’t question somebody’s ability it doesn’t alter somebodies contribution to a team or to a sport or to anything in life but to create an environment of negativity here to create an environment where somebody feels as though they have to hide such a huge piece of who they are is just such a failure and and potentially catastrophic. I mean again when I when I relate it back to my own story now had I not had that environment I don’t know that I would have had a place to have recovered from my mental illness. And I don’t know that I’d be here today to share that story.
[00:07:55] So I guess my message you know this is really about inclusion and equality and the importance of understanding how relevant it is to welcome everybody and their differences and to accept that love is love. Love is the same for everyone. And to ask somebody to remove love from their life or to hide the most positive emotion that we can experience as people to hide that just for somebody else’s benefit. It’s just such a failure and it’s something we really need to work to break down those barriers and really come to a place where where my my past belief could be recognized which is this shouldn’t have to be a conversation it shouldn’t have to be a conversation to say you know we’re all the same. We’re we’re all the same we’re in this journey of life together and we look for the best and one or the other and we look for the best in ourselves in order to be successful and our measure of success in the end a lot of it comes from the people we love our family our support our friends and the people that we have those experiences with and for athletes a lot of that is going to be your teammates and the other the other athletes you’re competing with and against. So I guess just to kind of start on this point for myself.
[00:09:22] And this is a conversation I’d like to continue having over the next episode or two is that it’s just so important that I think we we really start to understand the the level of impact we have on one another and if we aren’t willing to treat each other with respect then I don’t feel like we have a place to be sharing our opinions. I’m hoping that in the next episode actually I’m going to see if I can’t get my my colleague the vice president of You Can Play to have a conversation with me give a little bit more about what they’re doing in the sport and all of the initiatives that they’re involved in to make a difference and if you’re interested in getting involved. Great organization please check it out – You Can Play. And that’s the story I wanted to share with you guys today so please go check out my website mentallyfit.com for more information resources and a place to share your own experiences. There’s a blog section there. Please join the conversation. You can also follow mentally fit on Twitter @mentally_fit in on Instagram @mentallyfit. You can also find me Kender Fisher on Facebook or on Instagram @KFisher30 and on Twitter at to Kendra_Fisher30. As well please follow WiSP Sports on all the social media networks @WiSPsports. And for more conversation around the world of women’s sport including articles videos blogs podcasts please visit with sports.com. With sports radio has become the largest podcast network for women’s sport in the world with over 700 episodes across 30 unique shows. And now a global audience of one point six million and growing. You can listen on the website, subscribe on any podcast player iTunes TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify or Google Play and please make sure to check in on all the great programs that are happening there. Once again I’m Kendra Fisher and until next time please just take care of each other.