the voice and vision of a new generation
Image credit: AT&T

Love or basketball: How my partner and I made history in the courts

June 28, 2018

When I first met Layana after we had both transferred to Pepperdine University, there was an instant connection. Within several months, I sat across from her inside a small Los Angeles restaurant after basketball practice when she asked me to be her girlfriend. At the time, I thought to God, Why would I be brought to a private, religious university just to fall in love with a girl? To my surprise, my question would soon be answered.

Same-sex relationships were not accepted at our school and we kept our relationship secret out of fear that people would find out and we would lose our full-ride scholarships. But once coaches and staff began to suspect we were dating, Layana and I had to make a choice: love or basketball.

We chose love—to fight for the right to love each other and for other students who were also suffering at the university. It was a difficult decision to make at the ages of 20 and 21. Same-sex marriage had not yet been recognized federally at that time and we were also not out to our families. We also knew the odds would be stacked against us in a legal battle against a private university. But none of this would stop us.

Layana White and Haley Videckis. Image credit: Jonathan Garcia.

“Are you ready to finally do this?” I asked Layana. She meagerly shook her head yes, though her brown skin was flushed pale by the anxiety that burdened us both. “What if there are no black people on the jury?” I assured her there would be, certain that at least one of the 50 pedestrians we had just passed was on their way to jury duty.

It was the summer of 2017 in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. The sun’s heat blazed against the backs of our business suits as we gazed up at the newly constructed federal courthouse—the first day of our trial awaiting us. Nearly three years after we had stopped attending basketball practice, we would finally be granted the opportunity to have our story heard.

We often underestimate the power of our own voices, each of which are equally impactful, significant, and necessary to achieve a lasting, universal goal of equality. We are uniquely placed at this very moment in different positions of power with the ability to effect change in different ways, to reach different audiences, and inspire a new generation before us. But for one to use their voice often requires sacrifice.For Layana and me, our sacrifice was our college basketball career and dreams of playing professionally.

Nearly one year after we first filed the suit against our former university for sexual orientation discrimination and harassment, we had our first victory in the court. Our judge ruled that sexual orientation discrimination was sex discrimination protected by Title IX, so future students, and even employees, could rely on our case as a precedent for their rights. After this, Pepperdine withdrew their Title IX exemption, implemented an LGBT club that they had previously denied for decades, and created a diversity board within the athletic department.

Seeing the changes that were implemented since our departure at a very religious, private university gives me hope for the future and the impact other students can make on their campuses. It is so important that young people today recognize the true power of their voices and increase their awareness of issues facing LGBTQ youth.

Both Layana and I are grateful for the opportunity to share our story in AT&T’s cutting-edge documentary Alone in the Game, which explores the unseen struggles of high school, college, and professional LGBTQ athletes. I am hopeful that this film will inspire other athletes to embrace who they are and who they love because sports has the power to shape society and break down barriers.

Watch the documentary on 6/28 at 8PM on AUDIENCEsports, available on DIRECTV Ch. 239 & DIRECTVNow.

Want to share your story, too? #ampyourvoice is a voter excitement campaign to engage, inform, and inspire young people to share their stories and take action in their communities this midterm election. Follow the #ampyourvoice campaign on GLAAD social mediaFacebook, Instagram, Twitterand learn how you can take one action today at countable.us/profiles/glaad!

Haley Videckis is an amp Contributor and recent graduate of the University of Southern California. Haley is an LGBTQ advocate living in Los Angeles. 

the voice and vision of a new generation