Before Brittney: Emily Nkosi talks about Griner and life since leaving Baylor after coming out

Emily Nkosi
Photo courtesy Emily Nkosi.

While former Baylor star center Brittney Griner’s “official” coming out made the rounds in the media last week, hailed as groundbreaking in some quarters and ho-hum in others, Emily Nkosi (née Niemann), a star on Baylor’s 2005 national championship team and a member of that year’s Final Four All-tournament squad, paid rapt attention from afar.

Griner, the No. 1 pick of the 2013 WNBA draft has become a household name in the sports world, augmented by a whirlwind media tour stretching from coast to coast. Her road to coming out may seem breezy. But Griner’s path was paved by the pain of countless lesbian, gay, transgender and questioning students at Baylor who lived and continue to live in silence or came out, like Nkosi, only to face hostility and shaming from familiar and unexpected places. Nkosi, who lives with her partner and son in Western Massachusetts, took some time out this weekend to complete a Q&A for Hoopfeed. She hopes to connect with Griner at some point especially since the new Phoenix Mercury star has indicated she hopes her coming out will help “the young generation” be more comfortable with being open about who they are if they are LGBTQ.

Q: What are you up to these days and what are you feelings towards Baylor now?

A: These days my partner Ashley and I are enjoying the gift of our sweet baby Galileo who is 19 months old. He is quite a character and we are loving parenthood. I am a web designer and content manager, which I also sincerely enjoy. I think about Baylor and my time there often, sometimes with pride because I had a lot be proud of in my two years there. Other times with sadness for the loss of that community I had invested so much in, once I decided to pursue a relationship with Ashley it crumbled and I still feel that loss. There is a lot to love about Baylor. The reasons behind why it all crumbled for me are complex. But, in short I look back on it and feel sad about how it all ended.

Q: What does it mean for you that Brittney feels comfortable enough to come out, even if it is at the end of her college career?

A: End of college career or not, coming out is a courageous act for any person anywhere. There are still many countries where gay people still face the death penalty. Here in the states gay teens are three times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers. Given those realities, what Brittney and anyone who comes out has done is amazingly brave. I am proud of her, happy for her and appreciate what she has done.

Q: What do you think of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” atmosphere that seems to be at Baylor with gay student-athletes?

A: I think first of all we should widen the scope and look at the whole student body. Student-athletes have unique challenges and are on a stage that makes this more personal to the masses but all Baylor students have to face inherent homophobia that exists in a place where being who you are is against school policy. Period. The “don’t ask, don’t tell” mindset insinuates that your sexuality and relationships you have within that orientation need be hidden. We hide secrets, insecurities and dirt laundry because we are afraid what people would think if they saw those things. Clumping your sexuality into a “needs to be hidden” category made me feel like something was wrong with me and that I was inherently bad. That is not a healthy place for any person to be. Even though Brittney seems to be feeling great, I don’t think it is stretch to think that there are many students for whom this hiding is having a significant negative toll on. And I worry about them even though I do not know them.

Q: Do you have any thoughts about Ken Starr being the president of Baylor since he defended Proposition 8 in the California Supreme Court while Brittney has a NOH8 logo on her Twitter profile pic?

A: The option of being neutral on LGBTQ equity is less and less common or even available. Ken Starr’s position is not unique, the majority of the country still doesn’t support equity for LGBTQ people. That impacts us all. It impacts that third grader who wears Brittney’s jersey today as she tries to build her own world view. It impacts the graduating senior heading to begin their college career knowing they are gay and scared to death about it. And it impacts the young person who just found the partner they want to spend life with, having to think about if they can get married or not, wondering if they’ll be able to legally adopt should they want to, and trying to decide where to live that people won’t hassle them or worse. All these things matter and have a ripple affect that one could ever measure.

Q: Do you see things at Baylor changing anytime in the near future for LGBTQ students?

A: I am hoping I can be a part of that actually. And I know it is possible.

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  • Emily was one of my favorite players that year…I'm not a Baylor fan, but hoops fan, and her scrappy, determined style was awesome to watch!

  • First and foremost, Baylor is Southern Baptist University, based on Christian values from the Bible. Homosexuality is a sin. To promote it, continue in it, is not something Baylor would endorse. It is not homophobia. It is about what is right and what is wrong. Britney Griner unfortunately either did not accept or was not ministered to as she should have accepted Christ. If she is a Christian, she knows what is right and what is wrong about homosexuality. She made her choice. I hope she repentance and "comes out" from the destructive lifestyle that pervades Homosexuals.

  • Dear Emily Niemann,

    Thank you for your stellar contributions to the UCSB Women's Baksetball team. Oh wait…you left before you even played a game for us. :( Thanks for the commitment.

    You raised our hopes for the team, and then crushed them. I was personally sorry that you walked out on a great coach like Mark French, who probably did not even care about your sexuality. Mark French is a great guy and great coach, and you let him down, and you let the fanbase down, and you let me down. I just want you to know that.

    When you're part of a team, it's about being together. It's about your teammates, and being apart of something greater than yourself, and about striving with your team. It's not just about you.

    And you let us down by transferring to our program, and then never even playing a game for us after a year of being on scholarship. And we're sadly still a little sad over that.

    I just want you to know that.

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