Homosexuality in sports
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With outspoken homosexual athletes, including Sheryl Swoopes, Billie Jean King and Billy Bean in the limelight, the stigma has begun to slowly fade away. 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 stigma has been reduced, homosexual athletes still face many challenges. Most locker rooms have a "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy, and there are few openly gay male athletes in hyper masculine sports like American football. On the other hand, female athletes in sports seen as masculine are often assumed to be gay.
Homophobia in sports culture
Heteronormativity can be seen as the dominant paradigm in sports culture, stemming all the way into children's athletics in middle and high schools. 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 is often taken to the extreme in sports culture, as a wide body of sociological scholarship has documented the emphasis of hegemonic masculinity in sports. 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 Osborne and Wagner 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, Wilkinson and 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 (2009). 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 (2009). They also found a similar attitude from high school athletes themselves toward participating on teams coached by either gay or lesbian coaches (2009). In spite of the apparent prevalence of homophobic thinking in athletic culture, recent scholarship has 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 U.S. Professional men's teamsports: Major League Baseball, NBA, NFL, and NHL. Only Jason Collins of the NBA has come out while active, and only eight players have come out after their careers were over Wade Davis, Kwame Harris, Dave Kopay, Roy Simmons, and Esera Tuaolo (NFL); Billy Bean, Glenn Burke, Kazuhito Tadano (MLB); 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.
Although professional team sports remain dominated by heterosexuality, individual sports, such as tennis and figure skating have had more openly gay athletes as is evidenced by the lack of out players in professional teams sports, and the increasing numbers of individual athletes who have publicly come out as LGBT. 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.
There is also a gender difference when it comes to the responses to male and female athletes who come out as LGBT. Male athletes coming out is treated more an a major announcement whereas female athletes face an expectation that their athleticism somehow implies they are more masculine, and therefore unsurprisingly LGBT. Brittney Griner softened the blowback from announcing her sexuality, by casually announced 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.
Homophobia in the sports world has had a long history, but a recent case was a breakthrough in the homosexual world which resulted in a lawsuit. This is the case of Jennifer Harris and her altercation with Penn State and more specifically their women's basketball coach Rene Portland. 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 claims that Portland has been biased against lesbians for decades and they cite 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 was 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 was warned that another infraction would result in her termination. Rene Portland eventually resigned from her position as women's head basketball coach. This case has been a huge success for the LGBT movement in ridding sports of homophobic discrimination.
LGBT leagues, teams and events
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 Asia-Pacific Outgames.
Various international LGBT sport-specific organizations have been established as well since the 1970s.
The Sydney Convicts RFC were launched in 2004 as Australia's first gay rugby union team.
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, Grace's Cricket Club was organized as the first gay cricket club in the world.
United States teams
In 1974, the LA 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 1978, the Los Angeles Tennis Association was established.
In 1981, the Gay and Lesbian Tennis Alliance was formed.
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 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.
- European Gay and Lesbian Sport Federation
- Federation of Gay Games
- Homosexuality in American football
- Homosexuality in English football
- List of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender sportspeople
- Principle 6 campaign
- World Outgames
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