Kate Fagan Brings LGBT Athletes to Mainstream Audiences

The Messengers: ESPN writer Kate Fagan is using the power of words to elevate the names and stories of LGBT athletes in a way that makes them seem larger than life.

BY Michelle Garcia

August 21 2014 7:00 AM ET

Kate Fagan, 32
Brooklyn, N.Y.
@katefagan3

Above all, Kate Fagan is out to tell a good story. In her work as a columnist and feature writer for ESPN The Magazine, espnW, ESPN.com, the good stories she tells just so happen to include LGBT athletes. It's a task that's become important to her because she was once a college basketball player on a top team and was closeted for most of her time there.

Fagan revisited her journey in her debut book, The Reappearing Act, which shows college-age Fagan coming out to herself and slowly to the people in her life — including some of her Bible-enthusiast teammates at the University of Colorado. Her story is one of complexity, not of clear-cut heroes and villains, which seems like a more realistic telling of what happens to other athletes who have followed in her Nikefied footsteps.

Fagan now works at ESPN after a few years covering the Philadelphia 76ers for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Initially, she did not intend to write a memoir of her coming-out, but she felt compelled to write a column about turning tide of the gay rights movement in sports, right as football players Chris Kluwe and Brendon Ayanbadejo were becoming vocal LGBT allies in 2012.

"I usually don't write in the first person," she says, "but it felt right to start that column with an anecdote about when I told my Christian teammates about my sexuality, and that was really the start of it." From there, with the help of ESPN editor Sue Hovey, her story became The Reappearing Act.

Aside from her book, Fagan's work at ESPN has been pivotal in shaping the way the news organization approaches LGBT athletes and female athletes in general. All of her basketball coverage has a sense of strong observation and intimacy, but most importantly, her coverage of female athletes mirrors the tone and weight of the male athletes she covers. Fagan doesn't write from a place here female athletes are still a novelty, and she does the same when it comes to gay athletes. For both groups, it's important that the sports media see them not only as gay athletes or as female, but as athletes who deserve equal time and respect.

"I don't think we have eviscerated homophobia in any way, but I do think there's more information out there, there are more role models that will help you think you can live openly and follow your dreams as well," Fagan says. "I like to think I would have been able to look up and see more role models like Jason Collins, Michael Sam, Abby Wambach, and now Brittney Griner. Those people were not out and open 10 years ago. And that's why I wrote this book, so that people could have someone else out there who they could relate to."

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