Monday, 22 March 2010

Sports and homphobia

 Who you calling a wimp?

An article in my local paper caught my eye this weekend. Apparently a prominent rugby player named Gareth Thomas announced he was gay and a few months later, returned to the sport. Well done that man.

I've never understood some of my colleagues' objections to homosexuality. They (those against) can usually be divided into two types - religious and/or moral objectors and those with personal fears. The former profess to base their objections upon instruction from The Bible and refuse to believe people are born gay. In fact, I usually find arguments from this crowd boil down to dogma - The Bible is against homosexuality, so to accept that people are naturally gay is to accept that The Bible's divine instruction (i.e. God) is deliberately disobeyed by, well, God himself.  In other words, it's a clear paradox and Christians and other religious groups must avoid it or face some awkward truths.

The second group often produce quotes such as: "It's just not normal for people to do that" or "These people have some disease" etc. Often these are the same people who have tattoos, take alcohol and nicotine into their bodies and a s a result suffer from colds or other illnesses. Nothing unnatural or ill about them, then! (And of course, homosexuality is not any kind of disease).

My favourite line from homophobics when they talk about gay men is  is: "Just don't let him try to do anything with me" because this warning normally comes from the ugliest, sweatiest person you can imagine.

As a heterosexual person (I mention this to be clear I am not biased), my attitude is that homosexuals do not create more crime, do not put any extra strain on the tax payer and are not any less productive or honest members of society than the next Joe Public, so why give them any trouble?  It may be true that certain illnesses or prescribed medications are attributed to the gay community at slightly higher rates, but this surely fades in comparison to the number of 'breeders' (as gay people playfully call us) who claim every single penny of child benefit that they can.

So with that in mind, let me be clear when I say one thing: I do not like gay pride festivals and marches, and other forms of 'advertising' a person's sexuality. My reasons for this are twofold: firstly, I find that usually, when a person feels a desperate need to tell us about certain aspects of their own private life, it's down to insecurity. The more we make a song and dance (literally, in the case of Gay Pride marches) about such things, the more we blow up that bubble of insecurity. It's emotional quicksand - the more I say 'look at me! I'm gay!" the more people think I must be different, the more different I feel, the more I need to shout about it, etc.

The second reason is more straightforward - I don't care what a stranger's sexual preference is, I just believe it's wrong to throw it around in public. I don't want to see woman on woman, woman on man or man on man action in broad daylight when anyone - including children - can be passing by.
That's not a conservative or outdated attitude and if anyone thinks it is, it's probably a sign of how evilly 'liberal' our society has become: if you object to people making out wherever and whenever they want, you must have something wrong with you.

That's not to say gays or anyone else can't get wild. I've been to gays clubs and had a great time just as I do at any other club. It's indoors, everyone inside is an adult.

The reason then that I applaud Gareth's announcement despite my usual attitude to sexual self-aggrandisement is that the world of sports is still loaded with prejudice and idiocy towards homosexuality.

My most vivid memory of this attitude is a football match between Southampton and Arsenal several years back. Back then, there was a widespread rumour that a certain Southampton player was gay, and halfway through the second half the entire section of visiting Arsenal fans began to chant :"(Player) is a homosexual" non-stop for about twenty minutes. Even as a kid at the time, I remember being struck by how callous and cruel fans must be to behave like that. It's one thing to banter, insult and try to distract a player on the opposition, but this was just plain vindictive.

 Thomas' announcement was not aimed at championing himself, indeed he called for more sportsmen to 'come out' to help wash away tides of idiots. I support him in this action, the more players that come forward, the harder it is for idiots to bully them. But it must be incredibly difficult for any gay sports stars considering going public. In these early days, coming out of the closet could be damaging to their career, as well as an incredible mental strain.

But come out they must, for this is the only way to tackle the problem. The government, as usual, is going about things completely the wrong way by attempting to impose yet more mind control. This year it officially becomes illegal to make homophobic chants at football matches. All this shows us is that the people in power have no answer to the problem, no way to reach out to people and no hope of achieving their goal.

Think back to my experience at the Southampton Vs Arsenal game. If that happened now, would the police really wade in and arrest a few hundred people? Would it solve anything? Would it make the victimised player feel better? Would it keep the rest of the crowd safe? The answer to all these questions is surely obvious. The way to eradicate homophobia in sports and society, less so.
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