It’s 2014, should we still be dealing with homophobia in sport?
The Australian sporting world was shocked when gold medallist swimmer Ian Thorpe came out of the closet earlier in the week, revealing his sexuality along with confessions of depression and other personal problems in an exclusive interview with Sir Michael Parkinson.
“I’m not straight. And this is only something that very recently, we’re talking in the past two weeks, I’ve been comfortable telling the closest people around me exactly that,” Thorpe said.
This comes after years of denial, which Thorpe attributed to fear of a negative reaction.
“For the record, I am not gay and all my sexual experiences have been straight,” Thorpe wrote in his 2012 autobiography.
What strikes me as interesting, however, is that more attention was put on Thorpe being gay than his battle with depression, the latter being the real problem in this story.
Out on the Fields – which is widely regarded as the first international study on homophobia in sport – conducted an Australian based survey. Approximately 80 per cent of the 25,000 people surveyed responded saying they have witnessed verbal homophobia with insults such as “fag” and “poofter”. The second most frequent form were “homophobic jokes” and casual comments such as “that’s so gay”.
Earlier in the year, NRL superstar Greg Inglis came out in support of homosexuality, urging gay NRL players to come forward.
“If individuals want to come out and promote that they’re gay or they’re not, I’m all for it,” Inglis said.
In an age where homosexuality is more accepted than, say, five years ago, this issue poses the question; should “coming out” even be a problem in sport? If we as Australians promote multiculturalism and tolerance of others, should a simple sexual preference really affect the way we think about our teammate or colleague?
The Bingham Cup is the world championship for gay and inclusive rugby that happens every two years. Last held in Manchester, United Kingdom in 2012, the Bingham Cup will make its Australian debut in Sydney later this year. It’s also one of the biggest 15-men rugby tournaments in the world outside of the IRB Rugby World Cup.
South Sydney Rabbitohs players (and brothers) Sam and Thomas Burgess came out in support of the Bingham Cup and homosexuality in sport:
Does being gay make a rugby player less talented? Does being a lesbian affect a tennis player’s serve? Does being in a domestic relationship with someone of the same sex determine a cricket player’s swing?
No, it doesn’t. And it shouldn’t affect the way people view them either.
If you or someone you know are experiencing homophobic taunting – whether it be in sport or in general – speak up or call the Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service of NSW hotline at 131 114. – Noah La’ulu (sports editor)
Top photo by Daniel Walker.