Friday, June 2, 2017

Phallic Friday - gay men and football

I just read an article on that prompted this post. I was wondering what I could write! This is the article here.

The article, by Matt Young, is about why he can't consider attending a football (league or soccer) game. He's a flamboyant gay man and he fears being in a testosterone-laden crowd where terms such a "f**got" and "p**f" are common shouted in abuse.

He also links to an article about a country AFL player who came out as gay, which is here.

This topic interests me because this is what I explored in Team Player, out sometime soonish.

As an avid league fan, I wrote Deep Diving with a MF relationship, mostly because I had been sitting at the footy daydreaming. But while I was writing it, and watching players interacting, and sifting through social media for inspiration, I was struck by a thought - what if a player was gay?

I knew that being gay wasn't something that the sporting media, and public, would be very receptive about. I struggled to imagine how an elite player would ever 'come out' and continue playing at the elite level because the scrutiny on them would be immense and possibly crippling. I imagine that some team mates would not take kindly to the information, and that could make it even more difficult for a gay player.

Women don't seem to have such a strong homophobic reaction, so I imagine that women would be more intrigued or nurturing...although, some women would be as bad as some men.

So I began to think about a male-male relationship in rugby league and how the guys might try to hide their sexuality and their relationship. Then I wondered how an alpha male might feel if he was attracted to a younger team mate, who was gay and interested in him, yet he'd not acknowledged his bisexuality before.

My mind went crazy thinking up scenarios and issues and Team Player fell out of my thoughts.

But in all my imaginings, I struggled to believe that a gay guy could continue to play an elite team sport after his sexuality was known. And this is largely because of the issues Matt Young talks about in his article - it's a testosterone-fuelled environment. It's a homophobic environment. It's an environment where spectators, and player to some extent, don't think about their expletive-laden, politically incorrect, verbal attacks on players, referees, other spectators.

Depending on where you sit in a footy crowd, it may not be the family-friendly environment that you hope. It can be rude, crude, and embarrassing. It can be scary. It can be horrifying. It can be some place you need to remove yourself from. I don't think that's improving either. And it's not the majority of spectators - it's a few who ruin the game for everyone.

We go to the games near us, we have season tickets, and so do many of the people around us. They're generally good, nice people. Last time, the MIL came and had a ticket a bay away from us but early on sat with us. When she went to find her correct seat, the family behind us said they had a spare and she was welcome to stay the row behind. Lovely people - kind and generous. But they did call the opposition by a variety of names through the game, none of which were politically correct, or something you'd want kids hearing or saying (yes, they have kids of their own!).

Sometimes, I think people don't notice what they say in the heat of the moment - and they parrot what others say. So, 'w*nker', 'p**ftah', 'f*ggot', 'd*ckhead', etc are all yelled, often without malice, but also without thinking of the impact those words have on the people in earshot.

I understand why Matt Young would be hesitant to attend a game - you've no idea who you'd be sitting near, and that can be concerning. It takes a long, long time to change people's attitudes, so I think it will be a long time before we have openly gay men in elite team sports, and probably a long time before all people feel comfortable in a passionate sporting crowd. Which is a shame, because some people at the footy are great. And maybe if you've been going from a when you were a kid, you become somewhat immune to the yobbos.

Have you ever felt unsafe in a sports crowd?

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