Brittney Griner discusses sexuality, Baylor and her new book
In her upcoming memoir, In My Skin: My Life On and Off the Basketball Court, WNBA basketball player Brittney Griner discusses a number of subjects, from the process that led to her publicly acknowledging she is a lesbian to the conflict she had with Baylor University, her alma mater, for its stance on homosexuality. The book, co-written with writer Sue Hovey, arrives on April 8, the day of the NCAA women's basketball national title game. On Wednesday, Griner spoke with SI.com on a number of topics.
SI.com: You write in the book about the process of figuring out your sexual identity. How often did you hear gay slurs growing up?
Griner: Just about every week I would hear "Yeah, she's gay." I also definitely got called a man a lot. I'd hear "she's gay" or "That's a faggot." It made me not want to come out back then because I did not want to get picked on more. I was like: Let me hold my tongue a little longer. When I was younger, I felt like an outcast. I was very angry because, when you are middle-school age, you want to fit in. You don't want to stand out. I was not who I am today where I felt I could be myself or different and shine brighter. I wanted to be like everyone else. I wanted to feel normal and fit in. I had mixed feelings of being angry and feeling like an outcast. It was really tough.
SI.com: How often do you face gay-bashing today on social media?
Griner: It's still the same. I pull up one of my pictures on Instagram and I'm 99 percent sure I'll see "That's nasty" or "That's gay" or "lesbian." It doesn't bother me anymore. I feel sorry for them. It's immature.
SI.com: You are 23 years old. Why did you write a memoir?
Griner: I didn't want to wait until I was older because I might forget some of my life (laughs). I had a message, and I know there are younger kids who might be going through some of the same things I went through. I wanted to get my story out there to help them know, and show them that they can get through it.
SI.com: What message does this book provide?
Griner: It is tough growing up and figuring out who you are, and for me it was tough coming out to loved ones. Back then, if you would have told me I'd be here doing this, I would have told you that you were crazy. But I made it through all the stuff I went through. Knowing people will read my story is a weird feeling and a hard one to describe but it was a relief. When I came to write the book, I wanted to tell the truth and not hold anything back. And I didn't.
SI.com: What was it like to be a gay athlete at Baylor?
Griner: It was different, weird. People definitely knew. They overlooked that part of my life. But I had a great time there. I met some of the greatest people that I am still friends with and people who reach out to me.
SI.com: You never got interview requests at Baylor about your sexuality, correct? And you never spoke about it. How do you look back at that today?
Griner: They have that policy about being openly gay or lesbian so they kind shaved -- PR shaved those questions away -- but that is the policy at Baylor, and that's why I did not get those questions at Baylor.
SI.com: How do you feel about Baylor today?
Griner: I [feel] good about Baylor. I went to Homecoming this year and I came on the field behind the football team. When I walked on the field, everyone started cheering in the stands. It was a good feeling. I cheered my girls during the NCAA tournament. They did awesome. Odyssey [Sims] led her team far. She made people turn their heads and look at Baylor. So I still [feel] good about Baylor and about Coach [Kim] Mulkey.
SI.com: You are frank in the book about your relationship with Kim Mulkey, your basketball coach at Baylor. When is the last time you two spoke?
Griner: It was early on the year and when I got back from [playing in] China. I peaked my head into practice and we spoke for a little bit. It was good. We talked to each for a little bit. Then I left and she went to coaching and I went on vacation after that.
SI.com: What kind of relationship do you hope to have with Kim in the future?
Griner: I hope we have a good relationship. I think we can kind of get back to where we were when I was in college. It will take a little time, but I definitely miss her. I miss my coach. She helped me out a lot. She did.
SI.com: Were there other gay athletes at Baylor during your time there?
Griner: I was not alone.
SI.com: How would you analyze your first year in the WNBA?
Griner: I'm hard on myself so it was just OK. It was not what I wanted it to be. I hurt my knee, and that was a struggle. I had never been inured before, and I had to deal with that. I'm looking forward to this year, being healthy and showing people how much I have grown.
SI.com: What was the most surprising thing about WNBA play?
Griner: Speed and size, definitely. And breaking down players. We played everyone multiple times and they know you. They know if you like to go left, or if you don't use your right hand. They know your favorite moves and what you are not good at. You have to listen to the scouting reports and that was something I have to pick up on more and really study who were are going against.
SI.com: How important is one day playing for the U.S. Olympic team?
Griner: Very, very important. It is something I am going to pursue. It's the biggest stage you can play on.
SI.com: What kind of ceiling do you think you have as a player?
Griner: I think I can be great. If I can keep working hard and dedicate my time to getting better in the offseason and during the season, I can be one of the game's great players.