LGBT in Sports: A Get REAL Perspective

By Lacey Purdy

There’s a phenomenon spreading throughout the country like wildfire.  A pair of students at Western University, in London, Ontario, with guts and an idea seemingly turned into a movement of hundreds upon hundreds from universities spanning across Canada over night.  This is called the Get Real Movement.

We have seen a trend of athletes who came out after retiring from their sport such as Billy Bean, an MLB player, In this situation, it’s more so males than females who come out after retirement; likely due to the notion that females are more accepted to be a part of the LGBT Community than males but the discussion as to why this is, is a completely different topic. It’s commonly believed that if a male identifies with an orientation that is anything but heterosexual, then they are deemed as not masculine, or not masculine enough (to play the sport they’re in); which may be a major reason as to why gay or bisexual males decide to stay hidden from who they really are. There is also this idea of the “Locker Room Mentality”; the thought of LGBT teammates ‘looking’ at other players in an inappropriate manner in the locker room. This couldn’t be further from the truth, regardless, the unknown scares some into thinking this way.

Fortunately, as acceptance of the LGBT Community in today’s society grows, more male athletes are coming out during the height of their career. It seems that the majority of society is embracing them with open arms; defining the athletes as role models and heroes of their sport. Some examples are Tom Daley, the Olympic Diver; Gareth Thomas, the Welsh Professional Rugby player; and Michael Sam, the NFL Free Agent that was on televisions everywhere during the 2014 NFL Draft when he kissed his long-time boyfriend, the moment he realized he was drafted. There are also more women coming out during their careers as athletes; such as WNBA’s Brittany Griner and Sheryl Swoops, and Megan Rapinoe, a midfielder for the US Women’s National Soccer Team. Thus, they’re breaking down the rigid stereotypical walls that have held for many years; we have examples of masculine gay men and feminine lesbian women, those of the LGBT Community who have reached the highest level of competition and success in their respective sport.

No matter how much progress we, as a society, have made, there is still negativity and ignorance surrounding this topic. This is why Get REAL UNB has been established. We have the same foundations as Get REAL; we are looking to eliminate homophobia, hurtful language and bullying. However, our focus is on LGBT and Sport and creating a safe and positive environment for all. We do this by, first, creating presence and awareness on our campus and within the Varsity Reds athletic community and, secondly, extending that presence and awareness throughout the Fredericton community by giving fun presentations to middle and high school aged children. We aim for these ages as a part of our “starting young” approach; as the ignorance patterns seem to start around these age groups, as it’s a learned process. Ultimately, we want sport to be the safe haven it was meant to be; where athletes have a place free from judgment and criticism and just do what they love.

People should not be restrained by stereotypes that establish a belief that they do not belong in sport because of their sexuality. Although we have come a long way, in terms of acceptance, we still have a way to go. We’re hoping Get REAL UNB will aid towards equality for all athletes.

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Are male coaches overpowering female coaches?

By Laura McNicholas

As a female athlete, coach, and referee in soccer, I find it astounding how little women are involved in professional sports – especially when it comes to being in charge of a team. The opportunities are there for some, if not most of these women, and it got me wondering as to what it is that prevents them from becoming a coach.

The Glass Ceiling effect is most often seen as the effect that implies gender disadvantages are stronger at the top of the hierarchy, than at lower levels and that these disadvantages worsen with age (Cotter, 2001). This effect is still occurring in Canada, the number of women becoming CEO’s is not increasing over the course of time. Men are still more than twice as likely to hold a senior position as women are. In the coaching industry, a good precedent is not been set if women are still being seen as lower down in the hierarchy.

In class, we discussed the participation rates of female and male coaches. Within Canada, women comprise 22% of all sport coaches and 28% of technical officials. These statistics are quite extraordinary, and do not by any means show the representation of how many women are actually qualified to coach the sport or officiate.

Being a female coach is not an easy place to be in the society. Many people undermine your ability and this ultimately leads to bad experiences, and causes drop outs. From a personal perspective, I have been on the receiving end of comments that were implying that I was not as qualified as a male coach would be. For young girls looking for role models in the coaching side of things, it is mere impossible to find any. On the flip side of things, males have many role models to look up to- especially in professional sports. A post I read online showed that in the NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL, not one of the coaches or assistant coaches are female. That is a staggering 1000+ jobs, and not a single one is female (Malady, 2012). Why? I hear you asking, and that is simply the question, why?

Many people perceive females to know less about sports and assume they do not understand the rules, although this is far from the truth. Surely it would not be possible for someone to become a coach, or referee if they did not have an understanding. Another point raised is that people will not and do not respect women as coaches. For me, this is wrong. No matter what sex, gender, race or religion people should be respected equally in this world. For someone who is willing to take time out of their day to help me develop as a player, they would have my respect regardless of their demographics.

For example, if a male is applying for a job as head coach for the Pittsburgh Penguins, then nothing would be wrong with this. If a female was to apply for the same job and happened to get it, many questions would be asked, and eyebrows would be raised as to why and how that happened. Today’s world that we live in is politically driven, and no matter how beneficial someone could be to a team it does not seem of much importance anymore. The main goal is to win trophies, and men have been successful in doing so thus far, is that why teams do not want to change that?

References:

Cotter, D., A., Hermsen, J., M., Ovadia, S., Vanneman, R., (2001). The Glass Ceiling Effect. Oxford University Press/USA, 80(2), 655-681.

Malady, M., J.X., (2012). Why are there still no women coaching men’s sports? And why don’t we care? Retrieved from: http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2012/09/female_coaches_why_aren_t_there_more_women_in_charge_of_men_s_teams_.html

The Political is Personal

Jamie Willar

We are rapidly entering an era where is it becoming more and more acceptable to be openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, questioning, and two-spirited. Members from the trans community are also making gains in terms of rights and representation; recently a hotline specializing in trans issues has even opened in Canada. Whereas there is progress being made for ensuring equal and equitable rights, there is still some backlash from pockets of society.

Whenever a professional athlete decides to come out of the closet (or to publically disclose their LGBTQ status), there are definitely mixed reactions from different segments of society. From the LGBTQ community, there is definitely jubilation. Representation in different institutions is a very important thing for all minorities, whether they are racialized or gender & sexual minorities. Queer youth need role models as well, and having ‘out’ athletes helps to inform queer youth that professional sports are open to them if they so want. Representation is about tearing down barriers for entry. When said barriers are torn down, there is more room for people to exercise their agency; there is more freedom because there are more viable options for careers, leisure, recreation, hopes, and aspirations. The world discloses itself to us by means of the choices we have. For most of my life and a good part of my adult life, I never thought that marriage would be an option for me. In 2005, Canada made gay marriage universally legal, and codified the constitutional right for gays to marry. An option that I never thought I would have has been readily available to me for the last several years, should I choose to act on it. Similarly, queer youth with a penchant for athleticism need to know that professional sports are an option for them as well; they do not have to choose to be who they are and having a career in a sport they are passionate about.

Potential backlash is a serious deterrence for athletes who may wish to come out. There is still social stigma associated with being LGBQT because there are harmful stereotypes associated with being as such. A gay man, who otherwise identifies as masculine may feel that masculinity as compromised because of the stereotypes surrounding gay men and effeminate mannerisms. Likewise, otherwise feminine women may feel like they will be stereotyped as ‘plaid-wearing’, ‘butch’ lesbians. When the entire purpose of coming out is to take command of one’s self-identity on one’s own terms, the stigma surrounding harmful stereotypes acts as an antithesis; one takes command of their self-identity only to be found powerless again when teammates, media, and society at large proliferates these harmful stereotypes. It takes the empowering aspect of coming out and attempts to negate it. The result is that far less athletes choose to come out, and instead remain silent. That is certainly their choice—but if a choice is heavily informed by the negative repercussions, the ‘goal posts’ have be moved by outside forces. The choice has been severely constricted. The second wave of feminism coined the phrase “the personal is political”—meaning that events that transpire in personal lives have a legitimate presence in the public arena. Likewise, the political is also personal: disruptive and harmful dialogues can have an extraordinary effect on people’s lives.