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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5 responses

  1. Great Post Lacey!

    I think that it is a great thing that UNB is standing up to try to create a safe, respectful environment for the LGBT community. I think that it is terrible that people are so terrified to be themselves because of the rude things that people may say. I have recently noticed that at the UNB basketball games at half time, they play a commercial that is supporting LGBT athletes to play. It is called the “you can play” campaign. The commercial features athletes from the Varsity Reds basketball teams, soccer teams, swim teams, and more all giving the message that it doesn’t matter about your sexuality, and that your hard work and talent is what is important to be a Varsity Red. I think it is very important to spread this message and that it is a great idea for the actual Varsity Red athletes to be sending this message.

    Chris M

  2. Love your post Lacey!
    Growing up in a country where LGBT rights are largely unrecognized and illegal, there is little to no safe space in that society. I have heard cases of people coming out being disowned, their families harassed by random strangers and the parents falling into depression. Coming here to Fredericton is like a breath of fresh air, where I can be myself without constantly looking over my shoulder. It’s great that Get Real is creating a safe space and running workshops in middle schools and high schools where students are trying to find themselves and to get through bullying and hurtful languages. Also teaching others to be aware of the words they say and use could influence and change a person’s life. I also think that spreading the message of sexuality should not matter in sports, as it could not possibly affect talent and performance.

    Faith T

  3. This is a very well-written post Lacey!

    I have really enjoyed seeing the GET REAL campaign getting launched at UNB, it has been very uplifting. I think it was very over due for a safe, welcoming and respectful environment for the LGBT community to be created, and I applaud those who began this movement in London, as you mentioned.

    I think you guys are really targeting the perfect individuals to help create awareness; by having Varsity Reds display their support, it is encouraging for those whom are hiding their true identity. Another good point is when you mentioned that you are holding seminars at middle and high schools as part of your “starting young” approach. I think this couldn’t be any more true, often young children say hurtful comments simply because they do not know any better. Great ambassadors will make a significant difference!

    Moreover, it is in my opinion, that the acceptance of the LGBT community has made great strides over the past decades. From my personal experience, it is when I am speaking with, or around, my grandparents that I will notice the most significant differences from one generation to the next. It is refreshing to note that there have been drastic positive changes in welcoming the LBGT community with open arms.

    Like Chris, I have noticed at the basketball games the “you can play” campaign. I found this video that displays the Vancouver Canucks talking about how they would react if one of their players were to come out, and I thought what they said was pretty great. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7oJ2KR5_mE

    In the end, no athlete should be ashamed of who they are and let their talents go to waste.

    – Jessica

  4. Awesome post Lacey! I think what these students did to start the Get Real Movement is a fantastic idea. It is great to see UNB involved in this campaign to try and create a safe and respectful environment for the LGBT community. Having The Varsity Reds support the campaign will raise more awareness. I agree with your statement that females are more accepted in the LGBT community than males and thats because of society and stereotypes. Men and women have different stereotypes among society, and males are viewed as masculine and thats one factor that is an issue for male athletes to come out. Furthermore, it is great to see more acceptance of the LGBT community in our generations and the past years. Having role model athletes come out while still playing their sport will motivate others to be who they really are.

    I have read an article where a school in the states had two male athletes come out. The school noted that any athlete part of the LGBT community will be banned to participate in any school sports. Along with this, the school also reported at the end of the article that they will not make the school environment a safe place for the LGBT community. After reading this, I found it very disturbing that a school is so against this community and willing to ban them form playing sports. This just goes to show that there is still negativity around this topic. I understand that not everyone will be accepting of the LGBT community but they are human beings just like everyone else. It shouldn’t come down to their sexuality because as athletes they have the same skills as every other athlete.

    I hope the Get Real campaign will develop change quickly. Having university athletes support the movement will make progress even better. Educating students in middle school and high school is a great place to start as you mentioned, it’s a learned process. I hope the message everyone gets out of this is that it doesn’t matter about your sexuality but rather, your talent, skills, and hard work to get you where you want to be as an athlete.

    Zoran V.

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