For one rower, crew team is safe haven for sexual identity

Being on the crew team helped junior Annabelle Harbold become confident in her identity: a strong, LGBTQ woman. 

Previously, she had struggled with her sexuality and being insecure. The welcoming environment that exists within the crew team was a safe haven for Harbold, regardless of sexual identity. For Harbold, the crew team was the perfect environment for her to shift her mindset and grow her confidence. She described the atmosphere for LBGTQ athletes as “very positive,” noting how the large number of fellow LGBTQ teammates helped significantly. 

 While the crew team has been unquestionably accepting of Harbold’s sexual identity, that doesn’t mean her experience as an LGBTQ woman has been free of any difficulties. She recounted instances where she was treated differently by straight women who presumed she would make advances on them. Harbold also explained how certain people equated her transparency about her sexuality as efforts to advance a fictitious “gay agenda.” 

Despite these issues, Harbold says her experiences as an LGBTQ athlete have been positive, due in large part to the ongoing support she receives from her friends and family.

One person in particular who provided a tremendous amount of support for Harbold was her teammate Maggie Gibbons. Gibbons, a coxswain on the crew team, gave Harbold much needed encouragement and advice directly after she came out following her freshman year. 

Harbold remembers feeling “really scared” as she became certain of her sexuality, but Gibbons was steadfast in her corner with the support she needed. “She made me realize that it wasn’t something to be ashamed of and that there are a lot more people like me than I had thought,” Harbold said.

As her career as a student-athlete has progressed, Harbold looks back fondly on numerous memories with her team while remaining excited about the future. One of her fondest memories with the team was when her boat won a friendly bet with their coach, so he had to jump into the river.

Earlier this June, Harbold and her teammates were able to train at the Youth Nationals Regatta in Florida. The opportunity to train and compete at such a high level brought out the best in all of them and created memories to last a lifetime. 

For Harbold, Pride month provides an important opportunity to both celebrate LGBTQ trailblazers and advocate for the future of the community with an amplified voice. •