Also, what's more important? Gay rights or world titles that matter?
A few nights ago, at a presentation ceremony in an old Gold Coast casino where your correspondent used to sling cards and occasionally tool horny punters, the Hawaiian Keala Kennelly spoke about being surfing’s first openly gay world champ.
“I hated myself because I didn’t think you could be World Champion and gay at the same time… I get to be proud of who I am and I get to love myself exactly as I am, not as people would want me to be,” said forty-year-old Kennelly.
It must be noted that the world championship was decided after one event, the Women’s Jaws Challenge, and that Kennelly won the event and the title despite not making a takeoff on her two waves.
A world title?
It’s a stretch, I think, and it’s correct that the WSL says it takes a tour to make a title.
Anyway, in response, the “three-time longboard champ” Cori Schumacher surfaced on Facebook to challenge the first openly gay world champ claim.
There is a rewrite of history that is being attempted right now in the annals of professional surfing. It’s frustrating to see this happening. Not only are openly gay professional surfers who remained on tour being erased (I knew them when I was young, and while I was on tour), but the world is also being told by the World Surf League and Keala Kennelly that professional surfing just crowned its first openly gay world surfing champion.
This is incorrect and there are documentaries (OUT in the line-up) and news stories (see below) that prove it’s false.
A huge congratulations to Keala for her Big Wave Tour win, but the record needs to be corrected. She is not the first openly gay surfing champion, nor is she the first openly gay professional surfer.
In 2010, pro surfing crowned its first openly gay world champion. I was not sent an invite to the awards ceremony, so there was no opportunity for me to make a grand statement from the stage, nor did the organization at the time (the Association of Surfing Professionals) recognize the landmark.
I was silenced, erased, and today, professional surfing is attempting to rewrite the past in a way that shows how effective past efforts of erasure are.
In our support of LGBTQ athletes, we need to be aware that there was (and still is) an effort to silence and make invisible LGBTQ folks from the past and women who have fought to make change across history.
We need to do a better job at remembering our history, especially women’s surf history.
“Schumacher, who in 2008 wed her longtime partner, Maria Cerda,… has a history of advocacy… raised awareness for gay rights in surfing…” March 26, 2011 (printed in the New York Times, 3/27, front page of the sports section).
Keala, all class, wrote back:
I would like to make a correction in my acceptance speech. It has been brought to my attention that Cori Schumacher is actually the first professional surfer that came out to the media while holding a world title.
I was completely unaware of the timeline.
I want to give her the respect and recognition she deserves. #womenupliftingotherwomen
I’m completely elated that I can be a World Champion without having to compromise who I am.
For me it’s not about getting the credit for being the first one. My only goal in making that very public statement in front of the entire surfing world at the WSL Awards was to raise awareness about LGBT athletes and the struggle we have gone through so that future LGBT athletes don’t have to go through that.
The @wsl is at the moment really trying to make positive changes in regards to discrimination of LGBT athletes and they have my full support.
Boom. Gavel hits. Matter settled.
The last item on the agenda is the validity of single-event world titles.
From what I can tell, two of Schumacher’s titles, 2000 and 2001, came from winning single events, not sure about the 2010 crown.
Kennelly’s, as we’ve discussed, from two wipeouts.
I think it’s a little rich, personally, to claim a title after one contest, let alone not making a wave.
The gay thing is wonderful, however.
Some of my best friends etc.