Lexus Van Pelt attended University of Arkansas at Little Rock and played D1 soccer as a forward for four years. Despite the stress caused by the abuse she weathered, she made the dean’s list and graduated summa cum laude. What happened to her as an athlete who happens to be a lesbian is not uncommon. It’s a good thing she has an ability to stare uncomfortable adversity and conflict right in the face without backing down. Her courage in every day life is what inspired me to dig a little deeper into some of the more difficult things that made her who she is today. As you read, put yourself in her shoes, and consider how you can make a difference for LGBT+ athletes of all ages.
What would make life better for LGBT+ college athletes? Having someone they could go to when they’re discriminated against by their coach like I was for the first two years of college would help. I had no one to tell. I just had to take the abuse – it was a game of chess that I eventually won, but looking back, I had to endure way too much.
Did you experience trouble in the locker room? I had a girl give me a really hard time in college soccer…she would say things like, “Lexus is looking at me.” She would walk around me naked, rip my towel off, and then make jokes about how I was attracted to her. I wasn’t. The harassment got so bad I would legit wait outside until I thought most everyone was done, but she always took her time and made sure to make it awkward for everyone.
How did you cope? Honestly, my girlfriend at the time and my roommate got me through it. They said things like, “You can’t let this hatred win.” I wanted to quit so many times. Every time I packed my bags, they’d say he would win if I left. Once, while he was yelling at me, I literally told him, “Ill keep sitting this bench and you keep paying me ’cause you can’t take my scholarship from me for being gay.” I smiled at him. He was fired six mos. later. *I won.
What did you learn from sports or a coach that empowered you as a lesbian? LOL. Life isn’t fair. I was better than a lot of people who played over me because they weren’t lesbians. My first coach didn’t play me because I “looked too gay” and he would tell me I was awful, ugly and fat. He would make us all pray before games….he was awful.
What advice would you give to other young LGBT+ athletes? Make sure the school you go to is gay friendly. You can literally google that sh*t but I didn’t know that then. Arkansas wasn’t my best choice, but I’m glad I went and met the people that I did.
What would you say to LGBT+ youth about being yourself? Being myself is constantly changing. The bi-nary and the community can put daunting titles on you, and you just have to do and be what makes YOU most comfortable. I know when I first came out, I thought to be gay I had to look and act a certain way that was portrayed on tv or in books I had read. The reality is, if I wanna be the little spoon, I will. If I wanna be the big spoon,I will. The trick is finding people, and a partner who support you like mine do. Don’t let the bi-nary and even LGBT+ labels dictate who you are or dull your shine. Be who you are. Be proud. Live life to the fullest. “‘Cause if you can’t love yourself how the hell are you gonna love anybody else?” – Ru Paul
*In the season that followed Lexus’ abusive coach leaving, she scored three goals, including a goal that put UALR into the conference tournament. In her final season, she scored six goals.