Avery Stone ’10 Returns to Campus to Share Experience as LGBTQ Athlete in College

Avery Stone ’10 arrived at Amherst College in 2010 with a strong sense of who she was, both as a lesbian and an athlete, and expected to be accepted by her classmates. Instead, she faced bullying and exclusion.

Stone, a varsity ice-hockey player at Amherst, spoke on Friday in the Underwood Room about her experiences of being bullied and the disconnect she saw between the athletes and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) community at Amherst.

Currently a Junior at Amherst, Stone serves as the Co-Head of Pride Alliance, Amherst’s LGBTQ organization. Stone’s work revolves around bridging the divide between the LGBTQ community and the athletic community at Amherst, where over one-third of the 1,800 students are athletic recruits. Stone, however, is currently the only publicly out LGBTQ athlete on a varsity team.

Stone participated in photographer Jeff Sheng’s art project “Fearless,” a series of photographs of LGBTQ college and high school athletes, and brought the exhibition to Amherst College. Through Sheng’s project, Stone has spoken to colleges across the country about the stigmas attached to and social pressures against LGBTQ athletes.

During her talk, Stone suggested methods for coaches and captains to create a more accepting, open environment for athletes. Strong leadership, compassion and an emphasis on respect between teammates were keys to creating an inclusive team atmosphere, Stone said.

Despite its reputation as a liberal New England college, though, Amherst still had an unfriendly attitude towards LGBTQ individuals, Stone said. She soon found similar issues at other liberal colleges in the area that participate in the Five-College Exchange, which includes Smith, Mount Holyoke, Hampshire and Amherst Colleges and University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

While Stone’s sexuality had never bothered her Andover teammates when she came out at the beginning of her Upper year, Stone was verbally abused by other freshmen on her Amherst team.

Though her Amherst coach largely ignored the issue, Stone’s captain reached out and stopped the bullying. Though she is not formally bullied anymore, Stone says that she’s still alienated from the team at large.

“I had never really heard gay slurs before I went to college. Again, I was lucky [in high school,] but at Amherst, if someone says, say ‘fag’ or ‘dyke,’ no one will speak up against