Gay Hoosiers Welcome at Indiana University
BY Julie Bolcer
May 28 2010 12:50 PM ET
People outside the Midwest often ask how to define a Hoosier, the official term for a resident of Indiana and the mascot for the Indiana University athletic teams. While the answer eludes all but the most devoted followers, recent actions by the school’s athletic department indicate that sexual orientation is an irrelevant aspect. Athletics officials say that their top priority is to cultivate fans crazy about their dedication to the Big Ten school, period.
“It’s someone who is passionate about Indiana athletics,” said Pat Kraft, senior assistant athletic director for marketing. “I see what they’re wearing and if they’re Indiana, I’m all fired up. All I care about is that there are 56,000 people at our football game. Gay or straight, it doesn’t matter as long as they’re Indiana Hoosier fans and they’re excited.”
That game-day attitude prompted Kraft, a former Hoosiers linebacker, to agree to attend his first gay pride event and work a booth at the Indy Pride festival in Indianapolis on June 12. School officials believe the appearance will mark the first time an athletic department has participated in such a festival. According to those involved with the process, the arrangement shows what can happen when the LGBT and sports communities let go of their assumptions and stretch outside their comfort (end) zones.
Jon Kitto, secretary of the Indiana University Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Alumni Association, says the breakthrough began last September, when he attended the dedication of a football facility and heard new athletic director Fred Glass say he wanted to reach out to different communities.
“He wasn’t thinking about GLBT groups when he said that,” said Kitto. “They weren’t looking not to. It wasn’t on top of anybody’s list. We needed to ask.”