As thousands of Michigan, Louisville, Witchita State and Syracuse college basketball fans made their way into the Georgia Dome on Saturday, they were confronted by the unmistakable anti-gay picket signs frequently paraded outside of LGBT events and U.S. military funerals by Westboro Baptist Church.
Around eight members of the Westboro Baptist Church protested in Atlanta over the weekend outside of the Georgia Dome during the NCAA Basketball Final Four tournament. Shirley Phelps-Roper is the matriarch of Westboro Baptist Church and daughter of church founder Fred Phelps.
“You need to have a case study. His name is Magic Johnson,” Phelps-Roper said. “Just use him as the beginning point. Remember, he did some Final Fours. The end of that matter is a fag son, he's got AIDS, and they're all headed to hell.”
When Kye Allums became the first transgender man to play women’s NCAA Division I basketball this November, the selection spotlighted the controversy surrounding transgender athletes. George Washington University’s official statement about Kye led to multiple news stories and raised questions about existing policies for transgender student-athletes. Currently, most high school and collegiate athletic programs are unprepared regarding appropriate pronouns, locker room etiquette and hormone treatments; the Transgender Law and Policy Institute found that only approximately 300 of 4,000 universities include gender status in their anti-bullying rules. Although NCAA policies prohibit keeping statistics about the amount of transgender student-athletes, the issue is not uncommon.
“[This] is not a new issue, but it’s an issue that’s becoming more and more comfortable to bring up. Even just coming out as trans is easier than it was 10 years ago,” says Merric, who began her career at Smith College as a woman but after coming out as a man spring semester of freshmen year, changed his name from Meredith.