Gays and Sports
Well hello there Gaylifers and welcome to another edition of my fitness column.
After recently competing in the Manchester Pride Games, the topic of gays in sport started circling around my head and the issues of homophobia that cause barriers to inclusion.
Having a largely LGBT client base, I get a strong message that sports were largely avoided at school and that kids would “forget” their PE kit to avoid the daunting and intimidating environment of the school locker room. Speaking from first-hand experience, I was subject to years of ridicule and bullying in the PE environment that made me skip class and develop a complex about participation, especially in group sports. Individual sports were fine as I’d be on my own but put me in a football team and my kit would mysteriously get left on the bus!
The sporting environment has historically been a very ‘masculine’ environment where there have been no positive LGBT role models for kids to aspire to. But are we now moving into a more modern time where homosexuality is more tolerated in sports. Or is it that some sports are still as far in the closet as ever? There is a definite divide between solo sports persons and team sports. I often wonder what a crowd reaction would be if a premiership footballer came out. If I’m being honest, I can’t see a good reaction.
There is no doubt that athletes such as Tom Daley and Gareth Thomas have created awareness in LGBT sport and made it easier for other athletes to come but do clubs want openly gay athletes? In a recent US study entitled ‘Homosexuality in Sport’ over a quarter of people questioned said that openly gay athletes harm the team and the whole sport with 14% saying that gays should be completely excluded from playing team sport.
When looking at the lists of openly gay professional athletes worldwide, women appear quite obviously more prevalent than men. At the London 2012 Olympics, there were 23 openly gay and lesbian athletes and surprisingly a large amount were in group sports, largely these were women as 20 out of the 23 were lesbian. The interesting question here is to look at whether it’s lesbianism that is more widely accepted by society? Or is sport more accessible to L&B women? In findings from sport England…
“Lesbian and bisexual women are more likely to take part in sport than all women – 44% play sport at least once a week, compared to just over 30% of all women according to analysis of Active People Survey data in 2012”
Interesting this survey identified that lesbian and bi women were more likely to take part in team sports where as gay and bi men we less likely and more likely to take part in individual sports. If we look away from sport for a moment, the question arises are gay women more accepted than men by their heterosexual counterparts?
Largely in athletics/individual and female group sports we can see an increase in LGBT people coming out, but ‘masculine’ group sports fall so far behind. I’d be interested to see how many (if any) gay men come out in professional football in the next decade. Fear of fan abuse, loss of endorsements and general homophobia in archaic sports environments make coming out seem a very undesirable option for many sportsmen.
Luckily in Manchester and the wider UK there is an answer if you want to partake in sports and be yourself. From gay football, rugby and even American football, if you want to participate in group sports there is something for you. Check out www.realmanchester.com/sports for a full list.
I’d love to hear your opinions so feel free to get in touch via social media.
See you next month.
You can reach MJ at Soho Gyms – Manchester. 6:30am-10pm Monday to Friday and 9-6 weekend. Or for MJ Fitness boot-camp and personal training enquiries email: MJFITNESS@mail.com or visit the website: www.mjsfitness.comMJ Fitness MJ_Southward MJSouthwardFitness
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