Saturday, May 28, 2011

Training Rules (review)

Taking a break from grading essays and final exams, I watched a documentary on Netflix Instant today called Training Rules. It's definitely worth a look.

This film's blurb is actually accurate; it "explores the case of Jen Harris, a gifted college basketball player who was drummed out of Penn State's basketball program by Coach Rene Portland for her perceived sexual orientation. Harris's court case against Portland's decision spurred other players to speak out about Portland's harassment and shined a revealing light on the sexual orientation-based discriminatory policies many college sports programs still condone."

The documentary was particularly interesting to me as a Penn State alumna (MA grad 1987). Rene Portland was coach while I was there. I personally didn't know any of the basketball players, but I certainly met softball coach Sue Rankin at party once and I knew people who'd been friends with former players. Rene Portland was thoroughly despised by State College's gay community (in fact, our nickname for her was "Anal Portland.") Portland hated lesbians. Anyone who even remotely "looked" like, "acted" like, or hung out with lesbians would be thrown off the team.

And, of course, we in the gay community know very well that quite often, the persons who hate us most are the persons who are themselves most deeply hidden in the closet. Speculation ran rampart that Portland was a closet lezzie terrified of her own feelings for women. Who knows the truth of that, but I will say this: Rene Portland surely set off my gaydar.

For me, this is a case of someone's religious convictions (Portland is Catholic) destroying her humanity. There are plenty of Christians who reject the fundamentalist/traditional view that the Bible is anti-homosexual. (Let's remember the Bible once was also used to justify slavery in this country.) Portland's hate (self-hate?) and homophobia led her to hurt many outstanding young women.

I was at the NCLR dinner in which Jennifer Harris was honored. She is a courageous soul. What's ironic is that Jen Harris may not even be gay (that's irrelevant). Portland just perceived her to be so. That alone is so over-the-top fearful that you just know something is amiss in the state of Rene Portland's psyche.

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