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SPECIAL REPORT: Gay Student Athletes in the Miami Valley
SPECIAL REPORT: MIAMI VALLEY -- At Urbana University, Hannah Walters, is one of three gay players on the women's lacrosse team.
"I've enjoyed my experience actually. I feel like Urbana University is very accepting of gay students," say Walters.
Head Lacrosse Coach Mike Hilton says Hannah's homosexuality is no different than talking to any player about any relationship.
"To me it just wasn't any different to handle as boy girl, girl girl, boy boy, it doesn't really matter, I dealt with them as athletes and as young people, if they had issues then they would come talk to me and we'd try work it out," says Hilton.
That "work it out" mentality is campus-wide at Urbana. Mitch Joseph is an Urbana alum and the current Associate Dean of Students for Campus Life. As an openly gay man himself, Joseph helps students find a way to connect with the LGBTQ community.
"I've been able to work with some of our gay students to make them comfortable, make them feel at home because if they are not comfortable here, something is wrong," says Joseph.
Women's Head Basketball Coach Kristina Danella also has three gay players on her team but no one was willing to come out and openly talk about it. To Danella, each girl had her own way of coming out.
"When you're comfortable enough to come out to whoever it is, if it's your teammates, your coach, your parents, just do it when you're ready, you should never be forced into it," says Danella.
We reached out to seven universities in the Miami Valley and only found gay female student athletes to talk, not a single gay male student athlete.
"I feel like men are really not accepting of other gay men, they feel really not comfortable with them being in the same locker room," says Walters.
And it's that "locker room" mentality that makes it difficult for some gay athletes to come out to their team.
"Some things inappropriate are said from time to time but I don't really hear too much of that here actually, I've never experienced it personally," says Matthew Watson, a senior baseball player at Urbana.
At the University of Dayton, there is a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination. Simply put, it's about sports, not sexual preference.
"Here you're a forward, you're a center, you're the third person on the tennis team, you're there to win, help us compete, we're going to love you," says Joe Owens, associate director of athletics at UD.
Softball player Jordan Jennings never knew a gay person before she was recruited by UD Softball. Her roommate and teammate Kaci is openly gay and the experience has been positive for both girls.
"I think it's really important that coaches, programs, other athletes just accept people for who they are, whether it's because of their sexuality or race or culture," Jennings.
Gay, lesbian, homosexual, whatever the title, in the Miami Valley, it comes second to title of athlete.
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