Demand for Dignity and Equality: LGBTQ+ and Women in Sports Activism

By: Sarah McDermott (She/Her)

Dear High School teachers,

Sports continues to be a major part of society all over the world. Everyone is connected whether it be playing a sport yourself, watching it on tv, or knowing dedicated fans. Little kids grow up idolizing basketball star Michael Jordan or football player Tom Brady but might not know the major contributions women and LGBTQ+ athletes made for their rights to be heard due to them being silenced. This exhibit aims to showcase the history of women and LGBTQ+ activists demanding the end to racism, sexism, inequality of pay, transphobia in sports, creating safe communities, and the refusal to be silenced. It is important that playing a sport you love allows you to be seen fully with dignity and respect as a whole person.

Transphobia in Sports

The Fight For Equality of Pay For Women 

Sexism in Sports.pdf

"Womenews Pennsylvania, vol. 2 no. 4, January-February 1979", by Pennsylvania Commission on the Status of Women, 1979, from "Women and Social Movements in the United States, 1600-2000".  An article titled "Sexism Widespread in Sports." 

Around the same time Richards was experiencing harsh discrimination, a girls’ teams in Pennsylvania were facing an economic and social burden. The commission for women testified at a two-day public hearing in 1979 to showcase proof that sexism is happening in school sports. “Salaries for boys’ coaches are $1,225 while girls’ coaches receive $950,” a teachers union stated. The coaches for the girls’ sports team remained committed to fight for a higher budget to fund the teams as well. The boys’ football team takes at least 50 percent compared to girls’ overall sports receives 8 percent. A girls’ coach stated “We have feared that confrontation would result in an end to our girls’ sport programs. But we hate to see the girls on our teams humiliated and treated as less important than the boys.” The activism and fighting for young athletes were a demand for dignity and to never be treated as less than.

Building Community Through Sports

Speaking Out

I Want to Be Wimbledon Ladies' Champion.pdf

"I Want to Be Wimbledon Ladies' Champion" by Fred Robbins, April 1980, from Digital Transgender Archive, CC0.Tennis player and transgender activist Renee Richards speaks out during an interview in 1980. She states, "I have the drive to be the best woman tennis player in the world." 

Renee Richards spoke out in 1980 with a powerful voice saying, “I want to be Wimbledon ladies’ champion.” The criticism that Richards faced when wanting to compete in a sport she loved did not stop her. She openly talks about her transition and how much happier she is being able to live being her true self. After her operation she says, “I walked out of the hospital and I had a tremendous feeling of relief, of having reconciled an intolerable conflict, of harmonizing my existence.” Many young transgender kids are being banned from participating in school sports. For example, a transgender girl would not be allowed to participate on a girls’ sports team in some states. The joy of allowing you to be yourself should be reinforced by the systems you take part in. For sports, Renee Richards showed activism and changed policies to ban the use of chromosome testing to prove gender to compete in the U.S. Open.

Athletic Activism

The fight Continues: We will Not Be Silenced

Women's March.jpeg

"Women's March Seattle, 2019 - We Will Not Be Silenced" by Michael R. Keller, 2019, CC BY-NC 4.0. From Feminist Community Archive of Washington (FCA-WA). Women's March Seattle, 2019. A sign being held, "We will not be silenced."

A sign being held “we will not be silenced” during a Women’s March in 2019.  The hope is for continuing to fight for the rights of LGBTQ+ and women in sports. To demand dignity, equality, economic, and social rights. The women in this exhibit displayed resistance and the Women’s March allows you to see that we all have the power to fight the system.

In conclusion, the role of these activists during the times of severe oppression advocated the equality of LGBTQ+ and women to fully participate in sports. The fight is still not over. As teachers this exhibit aims to encourage you educate yourself on LGBTQIA+ and women movements and apply their mission to your classroom and be an ally for your students. I invite you to learn more about how to support transgender students in sports at the Trevor Project as they are severely marginalized in school athletics.

Thank you.

About the Curator:

Sarah McDermott (She/Her):I grew up in New Hampshire and attended Nashua Community College studying Psychology from 2013-2015 and then enlisted in the Navy from 2015-2021. I am currently a junior at University of Washington Bothell, majoring in Community Psychology with a minor in Diversity Studies. I have been playing basketball all my life and am proudly part of the LGBTQ+ community!

Archives Consulted:

Alexander Street

Digital Transgender Archive

Feminist Community Archive of Washington

GLBT Historical Society

Smithsonian: American Women Athletes

Artifact Citations:

Bay Area Reporter, “Bay Area Reporter, Volume 17, Number 30, 23 July 1987,” GLBT Historical Society, Accessed 22 February 2022.

Bay Area Reporter, “Bay Area Reporter, Volume 24, Number 48, 1 December 1994,” GLBT Historical Society, Accessed 22 February 2022.

Fred Robbins, “I Want to Be Wimbledon Ladies' Champion,” Digital Transgender Archive, Accessed 20 February 2022.

Michael R. Keller, “Women's March Seattle, 2019 - We Will Not Be Silenced,”Feminism Community Archive of Washington, Accessed 20 February 2022.

Pennsylvania. Commission on the Status of Women , “Womenews Pennsylvania, vol. 2 no. 4, January-February 1979,” Alexander Street, Accessed 20 February 2022.

Paul Dacre and Ian Barnes, “Mixed Single Renee Quits,” Digital Transgender Archive, Accessed 20 February 2022.

Teddy Tinling , “Tennis Dress, worn by Billie Jean King during the "Battle of the Sexes,” Smithsonian: American Women Athletes, Accessed 20 February 2022.

Tony Vaccaro, “Wilma Rudolph,” Smithsonian: American Women Athletes, Accessed 20 February 2022.

Citations of Embedded Links:

Promoting equality through sport & culture. Federation of Gay Games - Mission & Vision. (n.d.). Retrieved March 7, 2022, from

The Trevor Project. (2021). Supporting Transgender Youth and Their Families Amidst Trans Sports Bans. Retrieved March 7, 2022, from

What we do. Women's Sports Foundation. (2022, March 1). Retrieved March 7, 2022, from


  • Dr. Julie Shayne (She/Her): For being passionate about feminist knowledge and giving  me the opportunity to create this exhibit.
  • Denise Hattwig (She/Her): For her dedication to teaching the skills on how to work with metadata on Omeka.
  • Penelope Wood (They/Them): For finding the archives I used in this exhibit and always being there to help when questions came up.
  • Jesse Blaire (They/Them): For taking the time to learn Omeka and teaching it to the class. I have successfully learned how to work this platform because of them.

Demand for Dignity and Equality: LGBTQ+ and Women in Sports Activism