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.