May 10, 2016 on ESPN.com | Stephanie Dolson as told to Katie Barnes
When the WNBA tipped off in 1997, life was quite different than it is today for LGBT Americans. Conversations about sexual identity were much more clouded by the HIV/AIDS crisis, which was at its peak; marriage equality was not recognized anywhere in the U.S., while same-sex sexual activity was criminalized in 22 states. The WNBA? It was still nearly a decade from one of its stars, Sheryl Swoopes, coming out publicly.
But as the league gets ready to tip off in 2016, most of its younger players, who came of age in the time of It Gets Better, Glee and Gaga, view intolerance in the WNBA as inconceivable, like life without the league itself. So as the fight for equality is still being waged in courtrooms and restrooms across the nation, the WNBA locker room seems to have it figured out. Although every player has her own philosophy, widespread acceptance within the league has made coming out practically commonplace, effectively defusing the bombshell story that still exists for nearly every other league.
One of the biggest names in the WNBA, Washington Mystics All-Star center Stefanie Dolson, has her own simple philosophy: Just let people be themselves. Here she opens up about her perspective as an LGBT athlete and how she finally found herself in the WNBA. — K.B.