Homosexuality in modern sports
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and other non-heterosexual or non-cisgender (LGBTQ+) athletes have faced intolerance due to heteronormativity within sports culture.
There have been several notable outspoken homosexual athletes, including Sheryl Swoopes, Billie Jean King, and Billy Bean. In the 1980s Tom Waddell, an Olympic decathlete, hosted the first Gay Games in San Francisco. Since then many homosexual sporting organizations have been founded along with sporting events that feature homosexual athletes.
While, overall the trend is towards open acceptance, different sports vary in acceptance widely and homosexual athletes still face many challenges. International sports organizations have come under scrutiny for holding competitions in countries where LGBT equality is out of step with their own policies.
Homophobia in sports culture
Heteronormativity can be seen as the dominant paradigm in sports culture, stemming all the way into children's athletics in school. Heteronormativity describes "the myriad ways in which heterosexuality is produced as a natural, unproblematic, taken-for-granted, ordinary phenomenon." It is defined as a world/ common view of heterosexuality as the normal or preferred sexuality. This way of thinking has been documented as an emphasis on hegemonic masculinity in sports is often taken to the extreme in sports culture. Arnd Krüger has shown that the history of homosexuality in sports in closely linked to the history of sports and goes back until antiquity. The priority of heteronormative thinking in athletics has led to a traditional view in sports culture that is highly intolerant of homosexuality. This homophobic attitude has been documented in adolescent sports especially, as a recent study by Danny Osborne and William E. Wagner, III showed that male adolescents who participated in football were significantly more likely to hold homophobic attitudes than other peers their age.
In a 2009 study on the well being of same-sex-attracted youth in the United States, Lindsey Wilkinson and Jennifer Pearson found that lower self-esteem and higher rates of depression in same-sex attracted youth were correlated with the prevalence of football in high schools. Sociology researchers Sartore and Cunningham also found a similar stigmatization in the view of homosexual coaches, as high school parents were shown to have an unwillingness to allow their children to be coached by a homosexual. They also found a similar attitude from high school athletes themselves toward participating on teams coached by either gay or lesbian coaches. In spite of the apparent prevalence of homophobic thinking in athletic culture, recent scholars have documented an increasing trend toward openly gay athletes in high school and collegiate level sports.
This trend, however, has not been seen in professional sports, where homosexuality still remains largely stigmatized in the four major North American professional sports leagues. Only Jason Collins of the NBA has come out while active, and only nine players have come out after their careers were over: Wade Davis, Kwame Harris, Dave Kopay, Ryan O'Callaghan, Roy Simmons, and Esera Tuaolo (NFL); Billy Bean and Glenn Burke (MLB); and John Amaechi (NBA). This same trend can also be found in England's Professional Footballers' Association (PFA), as a recent ad campaign devised by the PFA against homophobia failed because no professional football player was willing to associate themselves with the advertisement.
Sociologists who have examined the issue of lesbians in American sport in the 1980s and 1990s normally found overt and covert mechanisms of social discrimination. However, homophobia has been on a rapid decline over previous decades, and studies show attitudes toward female homosexuality in sport have improved since the research conducted on lesbian athletes in the mid-1990s.
There has been an increase in numbers of individual athletes who have publicly come out as LGBTQ. Recent attempts by organizations such as the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) have also been made to break down homophobic attitudes in collegiate and professional team sports. NCLR has worked with the San Francisco 49ers, as well as collegiate athletic departments at universities such as North Carolina, Florida, and Stanford at revising team policies to more openly accommodate LBGT athletes.
Out on the Fields, a survey conducted in 2015 initiated by members of the organizing committee of Bingham Cup Sydney 2014, the world cup of gay rugby, and members of the Sydney Convicts, Australia’s first gay rugby union club, is the first and largest study conducted on homophobia in sports. It surveyed 9494 athletes with varying sexual identities (25% of which identified as heterosexual). The survey found that only 1% of the participants believed that lesbian, gay, and bisexual athletes were 'completely accepted' in sport culture, while 80% of respondents said they had witnessed or experienced homophobia in a sporting environment. The rates and occurrences of discrimination based on sexuality in sports are high with 62% of survey respondents claiming that homophobia is more common in team sports than any other part of society.
There is also a gender difference when it comes to the responses to male and female athletes who come out as LGBT. Brittney Griner softened the blowback from announcing her sexuality, by casually announcing her coming out in an interview almost immediately after being drafted into the WNBA. This was a month before Jason Collins came out and there was a media uproar for him while there was barely any coverage over Griner's announcement.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association announced its support of LGBT student-athletes, coaches, and administrators in intercollegiate athletics. Since then, the association has been defending its core values of equality, inclusion, fairness, and respect in regard to all people involved in NCAA sports and events. The defense of these values has very publicly come into play in determining host cities for championship events. The NCAA expressed concern over Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the hosting of the 2015 Men's Basketball Final Four Tournament, and it banned North Carolina from hosting championship events until 2019 after it passed the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act (H.B. 2).
Legal cases in the United States
The case of Jennifer Harris against Penn State, more specifically their women's basketball coach Rene Portland brought change to the world of sports. In 2006, a gay rights advocacy group, The National Center for Lesbian Rights, accused Rene Portland of forcing Jennifer Harris to transfer because of bias against lesbians. The advocacy group claimed that Portland was biased against lesbians for decades and cited a 1986 interview in which she claimed she talked to recruits and parents of recruits about lesbians stating, "I will not have it in my program." There were also claims of Portland telling key recruits (in order to keep them from going to rival schools) that the other team was "full of lesbians." The lawsuit was eventually settled out of court and Penn State found Portland in violation of policy. She was fined $10,000 by the university in lieu of a one-game suspension and warned that another infraction would result in the termination of her employment. Rene Portland eventually resigned from her position as women's head basketball coach.
LGBT leagues, teams, events, and individuals coming out
In the absence of openly LGBT sportspersons, LGBT-focused leagues and events have been created since the late 1970s. One of the earliest-recorded gay sports event organizing committees is the Federation of Gay Games (initially known as the United States Gay Olympics Committee), which was established in 1980 by Tom Waddell, Mark Brown and Paul Mart to organize the first Gay Games (1982) in San Francisco; another organization, Apollo - Friends in Sports, was established in 1981 to organize the Western Cup, a multi-sport event for gay and lesbian athletes in Calgary, Alberta. By 1989, the European Gay and Lesbian Sport Federation was formed to organize the EuroGames for LGBT athletes in Europe.
In 2006, a schism occurred between the Federation of Gay Games and the Montreal organizing committee for the Gay Games, leading to the Montreal committee organizing a rival multi-sports event, the World Outgames, which continues to the present. The sponsoring organization for the Outgames, the Gay and Lesbian International Sport Association, has also organized smaller, regional multi-sports events, including the North American and AsiaPacific Outgames.
Canada harbors a large LGBT sports community, having hosted the inaugural World OutGames. Local organizations like Équipe Montréal, OutSport Toronto and Team Vancouver represent LGBT sport within their respective cities.
In December 2013, The 519 received Toronto City Council approval to build a sport and recreation centre focused on sport inclusion. Once built, the new centre will provide a home to Toronto's over 6,000 LGBT sport participants.
Paris Foot Gay was established in 2003.
The first gay rugby team in Ireland, Emerald Warriors RFC, was established in 2003.
The first openly gay football team formed in the United Kingdom is Stonewall F.C., which was formed in 1991. The next year, Gay Football Supporters Network was formed; a GFSN National League was formed 2002 among GFSN members who wanted to participate in amateur competition as well as support major professional teams.
The first openly gay rugby team in the world, the Kings Cross Steelers, was formed in 1995 in London. The first openly gay rugby team in Northern Ireland, the Ulster Titans, was formed in 2007, and the first Scottish gay rugby team, the Caledonian Thebans RFC, was formed in 2002.
In 1996, Graces Cricket Club was organized as the first gay cricket club in the world.
Ishigaki Ju Jitsu Club began in 1994 and pride's itself on being the "Only LGBT Ju Jitsu Club in the World'.
The first decade of the 21st century saw two high-profile Welsh rugby union figures come out while active. First, in 2007, international referee Nigel Owens came out. Then, in 2009, Gareth Thomas, at the time the country's most-capped player (and later a rugby league international), came out. Thomas was believed to be the first professional male player in a team sport to come out while active.
United States teams
In 1974, the LA Union Thursday Pool League was established as the first gay competitive pool league in the United States.
The Big Apple Softball League (initially known as the Manhattan Community Athletic Association) was initially formed in 1977 for gay softball players in the New York City area. That same year, the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance was formed for future gay softball teams.
In 1980, the International Gay Bowling Organization (IGBO) was formed.
In 1991, the Gay and Lesbian Tennis Alliance was formed at the July 1991 San Diego Open. The first local gay tennis organizations were formed in Dallas and Los Angeles in 1979. The San Francisco, Houston and San Diego followed through 1983.
In 1982, the West Hollywood Aquatics was formed as a swim and water polo team. That same year, the West Hollywood Wrestling Club was organized as the first gay competitive wrestling team in the United States.
In 1985, the Los Angeles Blades was organized as the first gay hockey team in the United States.
In 1986, following the second Gay Games, Tony Jasinski organized the San Francisco Gay Basketball Association by organizing basketball games at the Hamilton United Methodist Church's Earl Paltenghi Youth Center Gymnasium.
In 1996, the Stratton Upper FC was formed by Jimmy Daniels as the first openly gay football team in the UK.
In 1998, the Washington Renegades RFC was formed as the first gay rugby team in the United States.
In 1999, the New York City Gay Hockey Association was organized.
In 2015, starting in 2014 the Detroit Regional LGBT Chamber of Commerce completed the fourth Pride Night games promoting LGBT Pride in all major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada. The CEO James Felton Keith stated these sports franchises are some of the largest corporations in the area and they affect the overall social sentiment.
- Beasley, Neil (2016) Football's Coming Out: Life as a Gay Fan and Player. [London]: Floodlit Dreams Ltd. ISBN 978-0992658564
- Magrath, Rory (2016) Inclusive Masculinities in Contemporary Football: Men in the Beautiful Game. Abingdon: Routledge. ISBN 978-1138653610
- Rogers, Robbie; Marcus, Eric (2014) Coming Out to Play. London: The Robson Press. ISBN 978-1849547208
- European Gay and Lesbian Sport Federation
- Federation of Gay Games
- Gay Football Supporters Network
- Homosexuality in American football
- Homosexuality in association football
- Homosexuality in English football
- International Gay and Lesbian Football Association
- International Gay Rugby
- List of IGLFA member clubs
- List of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender sportspeople
- Principle 6 campaign
- Transgender people in sports
- World Outgames
- LZ Granderson (October 28, 2008). "Three-time MVP 'tired of having to hide my feelings'". ESPN The Magazine. Retrieved 2008-12-11.
- Stanley, Alessandra (26 April 2006). "The Legacy of Billie Jean King, an Athlete Who Demanded Equal Play". Retrieved 5 April 2018 – via NYTimes.com.
- Bugg, Sean (May 15, 2003). "Out of the Park: Former pro-baseball player Billy Bean pursues a new field of dreams". Metro Weekly. Retrieved June 11, 2014.
- "The brief history of gay athletes". Espn.go.com. 1998-12-18. Retrieved 2012-10-09.
- https://web.archive.org/web/20100924221439/http://www.atlantagaysports.com/. Archived from the original on September 24, 2010. Retrieved April 5, 2010. Missing or empty
- "Welcome to "The Games that Change the World" - Federation of Gay Games". Gaygames.com. Retrieved 2012-10-09.
- Wilkinson & Pearson 2009 (http://gas.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/23/4/542)
- "Heteronormative". Oxford University Press. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
- A. KRÜGER (1999). The Homosexual and Homoerotic in Sport, in: James RIORDAN & Arnd KRÜGER (eds.): The International Politics of Sport in the 20th Century. London: Routledge, pp.191 – 216. ISBN 0-419-21160-8
- "Donnelly and Young (1988) The construction and confirmation of identity in sport subcultures". Getcited.org. Archived from the original on 2003-07-12. Retrieved 2012-10-09.
- "Exploring the Relationship between Homophobia and Participation in Core Sports among High School Students". Pacific Sociological Association. 50.
- Wilkinson, Lindsey; Pearson, Jennifer. "School Culture and the Well-Being of Same-Sex-Attracted Youth". Gender & Society. doi:10.1177/0891243209339913. PMC 5129605
- Sartore-Baldwin, Melanie (2013). Sexual Minorities in Sports: Prejudice at Play. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers. pp. 1–10. ISBN 978-1-58826-890-7.
- In the Game: Gay Athletes and the Cult of Masculinity - Eric Anderson - Google Books. Books.google.com. 2010-03-10. ISBN 9780791482872. Retrieved 2012-10-09.
- Kian, ET; Anderson, E (2009). "John Amaechi: changing the way sport reporters examine gay athletes". J Homosex. 56 (7): 799–818. doi:10.1080/00918360903187788. PMID 19802757.
- "Taylor Claims Gay Issue Not Easy For Stars". The Independent. London. 12 February 2010.
- Anderson, Eric; Bullingham, Rachael (10 June 2013). "Openly lesbian team sport athletes in an era of decreasing homohysteria". International Review for the Sociology of Sport. 50 (6): 647–660. doi:10.1177/1012690213490520.
- "NCLR: issues & cases > sports > sports project overview". Nclrights.org. Retrieved 2012-10-09.
- Denison E, Kitchen A. (2015). Out on the Fields: The first international study on homophobia in sport. Repucom, Australian Sports Commission, Federation of Gay Games. Accessed through: www.outonthefields.com
- Aalai, Azadeh. "Why Athletes' Coming Out Matters". Psychology Today. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
- Griffin, Pat, and Hudson Taylor. “Champions of Respect: Inclusion of LGBT Student-Athletes and Staff in NCAA Programs,” April 2010.
- Hendrickson, Brian. “Board of Governors Approves Anti-Discrimination Process for Championships Bids.” Text. NCAA.org - The Official Site of the NCAA, April 27, 2016.
- Reports, Tribune wire. “NCAA Weighs Response to Indiana’s Religious Freedom Law.” Chicagotribune.com, March 26, 2015. http://www.chicagotribune.com/chi-ncaa-tournament-indiana-religious-freedom-spt-20150326-story.html.
- Shoichet, Catherine E. (April 5, 2016). "North Carolina transgender law: Is it discriminatory?". CNN. Retrieved November 30, 2016.
- "Group says Penn State coach biased - Women's College Basketball - ESPN". Sports.espn.go.com. 2005-10-11. Retrieved 2012-10-09.
- "Group accuses Penn State coach with anti-lesbian bias". ESPN.com. 2005-10-11. Retrieved 2016-11-12.
- Archived September 3, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
- "Penn State coach Portland resigns". ESPN.com. 22 March 2007. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
- "The Bingham Cup - About - Bingham Cup Nashville 2016". www.binghamcup.com. Retrieved 2016-12-09.
- "About Us". Sydney Convicts Rugby Club. 2012-01-01. Retrieved 2016-12-09.
- "Équipe Montréal – Association des clubs sports et loisirs LGBTA". www.equipe-montreal.org. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
- Bevan, Nathan (2007-05-20). "Ref's gay torment". Wales on Sunday. Archived from the original on 27 May 2008. Retrieved 16 July 2007.
- Smith, Gary (3 May 2010). "Gareth Thomas... The Only Openly Gay Male Athlete". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 12 June 2010.
- McRae, Donald (2013-03-29). "Robbie Rogers: why coming out as gay meant I had to leave football". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-12-09.
- "Inside the National Gay Flag Football League With 'F(l)ag Football'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2018-06-03.
- "DC Gay Flag Football League produces 2017 calendar". Outsports. Retrieved 2018-06-03.
- Slater, J. (September 17, 2013). "Openly Gay Male Athletes Jason Collins, Robbie Rogers, and Orlando Cruz struggling for impact". The Huffington Post.
- "Missouri's Michael Sam says he's gay in advance of 2014 NFL Draft". CBSSports.com. Retrieved 2016-12-09.
- Birkett, Dave (June 29, 2015). "LGBT Pride Event Slated for Lions Game This Fall". Detroit Free Press.
- 10 Openly Gay Footballers. History of World Football. lgbtworldchannel, 29 July 2016. YouTube (11:45 min)
- Keegan Hirst. UK Rugby Player coming out story. ITV: Good Morning Britain, 18 August 2015, YouTube (06:39 min)
- Homosexuality In Sports Now Impossible To Ignore - AP, Steve Wilstein, 21 June 1995