by Chrissy Wojnarwsky
There is a longstanding and well-known stereotype that all men who cheer are gay. For those who are, I think it provides an acknowledgment that this is a safe space to be out, and they are often fiercely defended and protected by their straight male and female peers.
The stereotype of lesbian cheerleaders, however, is something just shy of an adult movie. What people don’t realize is that when they sexualize a sexual identity, it makes it hard for those questioning their sexuality to feel safe and comfortable with what they’re going through. And with fewer girls out and proud in cheer, it’s hard to find support and a safe space to be you.
It’s hard to band together as a community if you can’t find them, when there are very few voices that vocalize their presence. As a teenager trying to figure myself out, this is something that caused me a lot of anxiety. I felt alone and an outcast. Now I can use it as an opportunity to educate people, to break through stereotypes, and to teach cultural competence.
I never came out to any of my teammates while I was younger. I was too afraid of judgment, that my female teammates would be uncomfortable around me. It wasn’t until my college cheer days that I disclosed my sexuality, and even after doing so, it took a long time before I was comfortable with it myself.
Nothing is worse than feeling secluded within your own community, your people, your tribe. Every time I have come out to a new group of friends though, I have been pleasantly surprised in that I have been shown nothing but love and support. It gives me hope for human mankind. It has taught me to love myself. It has shown me that I don’t have to live my life thinking my sexuality is a flaw. The only demon is the fear I let create that mindset.
Ask a lot of people who have been cheerleaders and they will tell you what an impact it has had on their lives in some capacity. Things that people attribute to their cheer careers may be some things like work ethic, confidence, outgoing. For me, I don’t think I realized the effects being a cheerleader had on me until I was no longer actively part of that community.
I would say the biggest things I learned were resilience, grit, fierceness, and passion. They’re qualities I see strongly in all I do, in everyday life, no matter how large or small. Resilience during the hard days. Grit when I get judged or people doubt me. Fierceness to give me the confidence to be bold even when I’m doubting myself. And above all else, passion. The easiest way to keep yourself afloat is to not let the darkness around you extinguish your flame.
If nothing else, I hope my story encourages everyone, and especially the young women out there figuring out who they are, to embrace it, whatever it may be. Go forward in confidence, and love yourself. Your sexuality or gender identity should never be something you’re ashamed of. Let people see you and love you for the amazing person that you are.