You Can Play (YCP) is an organization dedicated to making athletics, on and off the field, a safe and welcoming environment for both LGBT and straight athletes.

Casual slurs in the locker room and phrases where the opposite gender is used as an insult create an environment that alienates young athletes.

Hyper-masculine ideals and gender-normative pressures can make athletic environments an unsafe and uncomfortable place for LGBT youth, something that YCP hopes to change.

YCP’S founders, Patrick Burke, Brian Kitts and Glenn Witman, who share a common love of sports, discovered the general environment was very hostile toward LGBT youth.

You Can Play was founded as a tribute to Brendan Burke, hockey player and brother of Patrick, who died as a result of a car accident in 2010 at age 21, shortly after publicly coming out and advocating for change.

The project involves something called “the captains’ challenge,” an online pledge for team captains to maintain a safe and accepting environment for LGBT teammates.

Many organizations such as the National Hockey League, Major League Lacrosse, Positive Coaching Alliance, and Canadian Football League – as well as numerous teams that compete in professional sports leagues – have publicly pledged their alliance with YCP and integrated educational programs that are in line with YCP’s mission.

A 2014 study “Out On The Fields” – the first international study on homophobia in sport in which 9,500 participants of various sexualities across the U.S., U.K., Australia, Canada, Ireland and New Zealand were surveyed – found that 80 percent of the overall population and 82 percent of LGBT people have experienced some form of homophobia in sports, including slurs and physical altercations.

According to the study, 81 percent of gay men and 32 percent of lesbians surveyed hid their sexuality for fear of retribution in both youth and adult sports teams.

Only one percent of the participants believed that LGBT people would be safe in athletic events and 78 percent said they did not think that an LGBT person would be comfortable as a spectator at a sporting event.

The study also found that the U.S. had the highest percentage of LGBT people that reported feeling uncomfortable in a sports environment and the highest number of gay men who were the recipients of slurs.

“Out On The Fields” deemed the U.S. the least-welcoming English-speaking country to LGBT athletes, and incorporating this positive and accepting attitude into national sports programs could be the first step toward change.

Directing the conversation away from sexuality and instead toward talent and ability is a feat that can only be successful with efforts from not just LGBT people, but straight allies.

Several universities have come out in support of YCP such as Brown University; University of California, Los Angeles; University of North Dakota; Louisiana State University; Princeton and Notre Dame.

UTSA has not endorsed YCP, but publicly supporting the initiative could make a difference by initiating conversation that will change the environment that is commonly associated with athletic teams and their events and perceived as hostile by LGBT participants.

By embracing YCP on campus and unifying both straight and LGBT athletes, UTSA can become a campus where all students and athletes will know “you can play” applies to everyone equally.

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