Judge them by their Success

By Robbie P.

As our class is gender, sport and leisure, I thought I would choose a topic which could hopefully create some discussion for everyone. Homosexuality is a topic which is widely discussed and abused globally. Many people use terms in a derogatory manner, often either implying that someone is a homosexual or their perceived action is viewed as being homosexual. It is not uncommon for words to be thrown around a professional sport clubs change room. I’m going to be focusing on the difficulties that homosexual football (soccer) players face in their change room, and why they are so afraid of letting their voices be heard. Whilst I am fully aware that it happens in other sports, this is my topic of interest and so my examples will derive from this sport.

I would like to address that football is a working class sport, loved and played by all. It’s the easiest and cheapest sport to play by a distance, with limited resources needed to play. The participation rates for males and females globally, are making it the world’s leading recreational sport by a distance.  Other sports like American football are largely watched and played, but only in one country, football is global. It is a sport which is accepting of all people, yet sadly there are some bad apples, like in every sport, which cannot accept certain people. An example of anti-homosexual behaviour came from a Brazilian judge, way back in 2007, who said “football was a virile masculine sport and not a homosexual one”. Okay, we have a few issue here. Firstly, as a soccer player myself it’s not a masculine sport, and I’ll be the first to admit that. There’s to much diving and rolling around to even consider that, it’s almost like play-acting (the irony is, it’s mostly Brazilians who do so!!). I’m not saying it’s not physically demanding, but it’s not comparable to rugby where they fly for each other. Secondly, the number of women playing soccer in the North American continent is unbelievable, and their Nationals teams are far more successful than their men’s. The third thing I’d like to mention is that a person’s talent should not be judged on their gender. It should be judged on their talent and success.

The most recent footballers to open up about their homosexuality was former male German international Thomas Hitzlsperger in 2014, and Casey Stoney, former Team GB captain at the 2012 London Olympics. Both athletes openly admitted, only after retiring from the sport. These athletes show that hegemony is not seamless and that there is a possibility of softening hegemonic masculinity in the sporting realm. The first ever player to publicize his affection to the same sex whilst playing, was English footballer Justin Fashanu. He took so much criticism from team-mates and managers at the time, but eventually committed suicide at the age of 37. A young male had accused him of sexual assault, which drove him to take his own life (article included in references). I am all for professional athletes coming out and revealing whether they are attracted to members of the same sex. I feel like it will include more people in the sport and opens a number of gates for more participants to feel welcome. I have included a link to comments made by Preston North End goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard (formerly of Manchester United), as his support for the LGBTQ community. He talks about the culture in the footballing world, how it would be accepted by the players and managers nowadays, but there are still some old school fans who would be completely against it.

One thing I am impressed with is the progress that is being made within the LGBTQ societies surrounding football, and more players are beginning to realize that change is needed. A study by Roper and Halloran (2007), looked at the views of heterosexual male and female student-athletes on homosexual male and female athletes. It was reported that the men were seemingly more negative in their views as opposed to the women. I would be interested in seeing a study of what this would look like, 10 years on, and how far we have come as a community. It’s all just a matter of who takes the big step forward and becomes only the 2nd person to openly admit to being attracted to the opposite sex, whilst they are still an active participant in the professional industry. Everyone should be judged on their success, talent and effort, no one should be judged by their sex or gender.

References and Links:

Anderson, E. (2016). Openly Gay Athletes. Gender & Society, 16(6), 860-877.

Roper, E. A., & Halloran, E. (2007). Attitudes Toward Gay Men and Lesbians Among Heterosexual Male and Female Student-Athletes. Sex Roles, 57(11), 919-928.

http://www.fifa.com/mm/document/fifafacts/bcoffsurv/emaga_9384_10704.pdf  (Fifa Survey)

http://www.breakingnews.ie/sport/football-needs-gay-hero-says-manchester-united-goalkeeper-575849.html (Anders Lindegaard)

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/167715.stm (Justin Fashanu)




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.

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.