Gay rugby team, the Sydney Convicts
A new study has revealed the shocking scale of sports homophobia experienced by both sportsmen and fans in Australia.
Preliminary results from the first national study on homophobia in Australian sport found that 85% of LGB (lesbian, gay and bisexual) people and 75% of heterosexual participants had witnessed or experienced homophobia in a sporting environment – either playing or as a spectator.
Half of LGB people said they had personally been the target of homophobia in sport.
Nearly 2,500 Australians – equal numbers of LGB and heterosexual people – have taken part in the study, called Out on the Fields. Participation was encouraged by a range of sporting stars as well as Australian rugby, football and cricket authorities.
The revelations come in the wake of Australian Olympic champion Ian Thorpe coming out as gay this week, and revealing that he was the target of homophobia.
Also over weekend, Brian Taylor, an Australian Football League commentator, used the phrase “big poofter” on television during a game. He later apologised and said that he would undergo counselling and education.
The survey found that the majority of LGB people (64%) agree or strongly agree that homophobia (e.g., comments, jokes, insults or abuse) is more common in team sporting environments in Australia than in the general society.
The most common form of homophobia reported was verbal slurs such as the words “fag, dyke or poofter” followed by homophobic jokes and humour and then casual comments such as ‘that’s so gay.’
More than 1 in 4 LGB people who had been personally targeted said they had experienced verbal threats, ongoing bullying or they were deliberately excluded from social groups. Gay men were more likely to experience these direct forms of homophobia than lesbians.
Rugby League stars and brothers Sam and Thomas Burgess encouraged people to take the survey
“I didn’t know of anyone else in the team that was gay, I felt quite different and there was a culture where homophobic language was used casually all the time,” said Lachlan McGregor, 25, a player in the Sydney Convicts gay rugby team who previously played for other teams.
“I thought if I came out I wouldn’t be accepted, that the guys in that team would be uncomfortable with it, so like a lot of athletes I kept quiet until I decided to stop playing rugby because I didn’t think you could play rugby and also be gay,” he said.
Martin Tebbutt, 31, who plays for the Brisbane Hustlers, another gay rugby team, revealed that he hid his sexuality for most of his life. “Homophobic language and humour is so common in male sports that I felt if I came out of the closet I would be identified as ‘soft’ or ‘a fairy’ by my long-time teammates,” he explained.
“This is definitely not how any man wants to be described so I decided to stop playing sport in my mid-20’s, gained a lot of weight and battled depression. Everything changed a few years ago though, once I started being honest about my sexuality with myself and others,” Tebbutt added.
The study is being conducted internationally as well, in order to collect national data for other large English speaking countries. To take part, visit www.outonthefields.com.