Sport and sexuality are generally considered matters which do not intersect, and in many spheres of sporting society are believed to be not only irrelevant, but non-existent. The obvious fact is that people of all sexualities do participate in sporting activities, and have profound impacts on the perceived hegemony of masculine/femininities within sporting culture. Gender-dominated sports have fed these social hegemonic constructs of sporting culture, and must be considered when analysing any specific sport.
‘Sexuality as a Structural Principle in Sport Participation: Negotiation Sports Spaces‘ is an article written by Agnes Elling and Jan Janssens exploring these very issues and patterns of sport participation and experiences in reference to sexuality. Elling and Janssens suggest that sexuality challenges the hegemonic heterosexual sporting culture, which has systematically discouraged many people who fall outside the heterosexual norm from participating. For men, masculine qualities are encouraged and are thought to underscore the entire success of the team. Thus gay men are generally regarded as unsuitable for team sports as they often associated with femininity. This culture has creating a strong sexualised space, in many cases this is a space of extreme homophobia, forcing men or women to hide their sexuality.
This year on the International Day Against Homophobia, the Australian Players Association of the Australian Football League launched a campaign to end homophobia within the football sporting culture. IDAHO commemorates the day homosexuality was removed from the International Classification of Diseases of the World Health Organisation in 1990 and is an ideal platform with national support and awareness heightened. The AFL has a long history of the use of homophobic language used as insults and abuse, from both players and fans. The recent awareness and support for the LGBT community within Australia has pressured change within the AFL and other organisations.
AFL footballer Brock McLean, who spoke out earlier this year in support of his sister who is gay, have been drivers of this campaign. He explains his reasoning to back such a campaign at the risk of backlash from a culture set in its ways.
This campaign to raise awareness of homophobia in society and in sport but also the little things that we use in our language, like ‘that’s gay’ or ‘you’re gay’…And reminding people that those little phrases that we use makes a big difference to some people.
Many prominent AFL players including Essendon Captain Jobe Watson have taken the pledge to end homophobia in football. Fans were encouraged to participate and change their Facebook statuses and display pictures raising awareness and support for the campaign.