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Gays and Lesbians in Sport: On Cultures, Closets, and Coming Out (?) William Bridel, Ph.D. Candidate PHED167 February 25 th, 2008.

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Presentation on theme: "Gays and Lesbians in Sport: On Cultures, Closets, and Coming Out (?) William Bridel, Ph.D. Candidate PHED167 February 25 th, 2008."— Presentation transcript:

1 Gays and Lesbians in Sport: On Cultures, Closets, and Coming Out (?) William Bridel, Ph.D. Candidate PHED167 February 25 th, 2008

2 Overview What are some of the difficulties experienced in sport by gay and lesbian athletes? What is it about sport that makes it difficult to be gay/lesbian and an athlete? Have your own experiences been impacted by traditional notions of who plays sport and how sport is played?

3 John Amaechi: NBA Alumnus Former NBA player Came out in 2006 Mixed reactions to announcement – supportive to homophobic OK, as long as he plays like a man…

4 The Social Construction of Gender Gender attached to biological sex Male = masculine / female = feminine BUT… gender is socially constructed Definitions change/differ according to socio-historico context Dominant gender ideology (privileging of certain types of masculinities over other masculinities and femininities)

5 At the Intersection of Gender & Sexuality Gender also attached to sexuality Masculinity and femininity = heterosexuality LGBTQ persons disrupt traditional notions of gender because of their sexual/affectional preferences Some consider sport the last bastion of heterosexuality and traditional (archaic?) gender ideology

6 Sport as Masculine Preserve Gendered notions of sexuality and gendered notions of sport Sport is considered a space of significant gender socialization Gender ideology dictates the ways that bodies should look and behave (and with whom) Certain types of masculinity are always privileged over other types of masculinities and femininities

7 Dominant Sporting Masculinity Hyper masculinity and sport Aggressiveness Strength / Power / Virility Playing with pain Bodies as weapons Domination Winning (at all costs?) Heterosexual

8 Dominant Sporting Masculinity Sport as heterosexual, masculine preserve Performance of dominant sporting masculinity (context-specific) is most often rewarded Assumption of heterosexuality – leads to homophobic and misogynistic discourse amongst peers and from coaches (i.e., locker room talk) Alienates/marginalizes/discriminates against non- heterosexual athletes Results in a culture of silence

9 The Culture of Silence Generally three outcomes: Closeted Come out but participate in homophobic discourse Dont ask, dont tell If openly gay, more accepted if they perform the expected type of dominant masculinity in that sporting environment

10 Esera Tuaolo: NFL Linebacker Retired from active play in 1999 Came out in 2000; only the third NFL athlete to do so Homophobia in the locker room Fear Stigmatization Marginalization One reaction: Question my ability, but do not question my machoism…

11 Lesbians in Sport Women athletes have historically been considered (problematically) masculine in particular when participating in certain sports Intersecting gender and sexuality: masculine woman must mean lesbian! Female athletes typically constructed in hyperfeminized ways

12 The Female Apologetic Hyperfemininity: Extreme opposite of hypermasculinity Grace Beauty / Physical Appearance Athleticism as secondary to womanliness Submissive Family-oriented

13 Culture of Silence (Re-visited) Lesbian athletes are often subject to/ participants in the culture of silence within sporting spaces Dont ask, dont tell Sexuality is downplayed, reconstructed, and or made-over by media, advertisers/marketers, organizers of the sport

14 Andrea Zimbardi: Softball Lesbian softball player Kicked off her collegiate team because of sexuality Won case against coaches / team Resulted in anti- homophobia training for all coaches and athletic staff

15 Are all Sporting Spaces the Same? Individual versus team sports More openly gay and lesbian athletes in individuals sports than in professional team sports The more aggressive the nature of the sport, the less likely that gay male athletes will come out while actively participating Sponsorship, media, and fan influence at elite/professional levels are influential factors

16 Why is this Important? Equality/equity in sport is not just about sex (i.e, male/female) but also about gender/ sexuality Need to undo common-sense ideas of what sport is and who it is for Marginalization, discrimination, harassment, violence: the not so utopic aspects of sport Gay and lesbian teenagers still account for the largest number of suicides amongst that age group

17 The Cross Country Runner Semi-peripheral sport Openly gay coach (athlete himself not gay) Homophobic reaction from other coaches, administration, other athletes Result? Harassment from other athletes / teams Physical violence from another athlete from the same high school

18 Is it Starting to Change? Athletes on college and high school teams are beginning to come out, with greater acceptance More openly gay and lesbian athletes at the 2004 Summer Olympics than ever before Creation of segregated sporting spaces: The Gay Games and the OutGames Local sport leagues, teams, and groups

19 In Sum… Change may be more reflective of general shift in mainstream culture but sport is still behind Problems: Sport as masculine preserve Traditional notions of masculinity and femininity, which rely on heterosexuality (and vice versa) as part of the definition; reproduces dominant gender ideology Homophobia and Heterosexism Culture of silence Marginalization/Discrimination/Violence Sport for all may indeed not really be for all in equal/equitable ways

20 Food for Thought… Can you think of any ways in which your own experiences have been influenced by traditional notions of gender and/or sexuality? Locker room / field of play talk? Exclusion of same-sex partner from activities? Modification of behaviours?

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