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    Golf Pro Comes Out Coming into 2019

    By Jamie Leno Zimron–

    “It’s important for me to always fight for equality … . There is only one of you in the world and you have one life, so be the best version of yourself and be proud of who you are. That’s when you attract the right people around you to make you better, and ultimately, happier.”

    With these words in early December, LPGA Tour Pro Mel Reid came out proudly and publicly. Mel is a six-time European Women’s Golf Tour winner and two-time member of the prestigious European Solheim Cup team (the LPGA equivalent to the PGA’s Ryder Cup). Her message rings loud and clear and is a great way to start the new year:

    Be yourself! Be authentic! Be brave!

    Feel your fears, then find the inner oomph and surround yourself with supportive people, or even just one supportive person, so that you can move out from whatever is holding you back in your life. Every single one of us has the inherent equal right to be who we are and to be happy—and the world needs you to be the true, unique and amazing person that you are!

    Even as the year 2019 dawns, out-athletes remain a small minority of leading pioneers and courageous champions for equal opportunity in the sports world. Mel’s message is as powerful and important as ever, particularly in the face of looming efforts to roll back our community’s hard-won gains for LGBTQ human rights—on all of the playing fields of life.

    Mel has joined Billie Jean King and a growing list of athletes (whom I’m going to join when I finish writing this article!) who are Athlete Ally Ambassadors. Athlete Ally ( https://www.athleteally.org ) is a nonprofit dedicated to ending “the rampant homophobia and transphobia in sport,” and believes that the greatest athletes are those who transcend their sport through their words and deeds, both on and off the field.

    In her coming out interview with Athlete Ally, Mel covered a lot of territory. She talked about “male-dominated sponsors that are looking for certain types of players.” That’s basically code for the “sexism-sells” approach to marketing, and the gender stereotyping that has made gay athletes so afraid to be themselves. While her family and many fellow competitors have been supportive, Mel brought up the fact that being gay is still illegal in many countries where the LPGA plays events. She also wasn’t shy about decrying the giant income gap between male and female athletes, and offered excellent ideas to promote equal pay and parity for women.

    For starters, I just love Mel’s suggestion to sponsors: Divide in half the millions of dollars you spend and distribute them equally between PGA and LPGA players, instead of giving most of the money to the men! To make sports more representative and inclusive for both players and fans, she says she’d “love to see more women in business come forward and support women’s golf … and more equipment companies in general support women and show our faces in stores and in ads.”

    Mel puts a focus on women who have already broken into the echelons of the business world, executive leadership, and professional golf and sports. They and others are well positioned to make even bigger differences by creating further possibilities for girls, women and gay/queer people to be in any game they want to play, and to be out and proud winners.

    We can all participate in this effort by:

    • going to women’s sporting events;
    • increasing women’s and LGBTQ presence as live spectators and in television audiences;
    • writing letters to the networks and corporate sponsors;
    • supporting diversity in sports at every level of schools and colleges;
    • and, if you can, by backing an athlete to reach their potential!

    It’s really all about making decisions, and what we choose to do with our time, energy and resources. Mel Reid made a decision—a big one that she knows is a game-changer in her life, and hopes will positively impact many others’ lives and open more doors for everyone.

    During these final days of 2018, I encourage you to take time to think about decisions in your own life. What were some of the significant decisions, large or small, that you made over the past 12 months? How have things been working out? Are there any things that you’d like to make a new decision about? What current or upcoming decisions are you facing? How do you go about making decisions? What if you don’t decide?

    Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said: “Once you make a decision, the whole universe conspires to make it happen.” We’re each different, but fear and excitement generally accompany the decision-making process, so don’t be daunted. Mel Reid could only start to know the outcomes of coming out by doing it. Much as we’d like guarantees in advance that everything will turn out just fine, there’s always risk involved.

    Instead of bracing for the worst, try expecting unimaginable good and the best to happen. Heck, even the Golf Channel—not exactly a bastion of social or political progressivism—has done a very cool feature story on Mel Reid ( https://www.golfchannel.com/news/lpgas-reid-comes-out-gay-be-proud-who-you-are ), an LPGA professional golfer who is a woman open and happy about loving women.

    So Happy New Year! Let’s all take a mighty swing and hit it miles down the fairway and out of the ballpark in 2019!

    Jamie Leno Zimron is a Class A LPGA Teaching professional, 6th Degree Aikido Black Belt, Somatic Psychologist, Corporate Speaker and Mind-Body Peak Performance Trainer. Contact her for private coaching and to work with your group, company or organization: jamiesensei@thekiaiway.com / 760-492-GOLF(4653).