Straight and Gay Athletes: A Changing Culture?

A couple of decades ago, many gay men would never have considered coming out as gay athletes. This has recently changed. In the past few years, many men in various types of sports have gathered up courage to come out to their coaches, team, and institution. A few of these men include Derek Schell, Matt Korman, and Jason Collins. Not only are these men receiving great encouragement from LGBT-supporters around the country, but they may also be receiving full support from their straight team members.  Although more anecdotal, I thought this short post could highlight some of the changes that occurring in the professional athletic culture.

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It has been very well documented in the previous literature that straight men have more negative attitudes towards gay men than do straight women1.  Gay men who perceive these negative attitudes from their straight teammates might have found it difficult to come out. However, now that gay men are feeling more comfortable with the idea of coming out to their fellow teammates, could it be possible that the attitudes of straight men are changing?

Many prominent straight athletes are now speaking out about the rejection that gay athletes have experienced by their team and management. In turn, team management and many straight team members have come out with full support for their gay male players. Even straight players who have uttered gay slurs have been reprimanded by sports management. An example of this was seen last month when NASCAR punished Nelson Piquet Jr. for uttering a gay slur via Instagram2. Piquet was fined $10,000 and ordered to attend sensitivity training for his action. Even though we would want such an action to be reprimanded, a gay slur wouldn’t even have been considered deleterious to other team members in the past.

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Athletes Derek Schell (left) and Matt Korman (right)

Granted, prejudice towards gay men still exists in the professional athletic world. Nonetheless, because of the recent positive press that gay athletes are receiving along with the positive support from their team, it is possible that negative attitudes towards gay men are slowly being extinguished.

Are you a straight man or a gay man on sports team? Please share your experiences in the comments below.

References

1. Herek, G. M. (1988). Heterosexuals’ attitudes towards lesbians and gay men: Correlates and gender differences. Journal of Sex Research, 25, 451-477.

2. http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nascar/2013/10/01/nelson-piquet-jr-joey-logano-fines-nationwide-nascar/2904977/

Comments

  1. I am a gay male athlete that has played at the highest level of my sport for the past 8 years now in the United States as well as in other countries all over the world. I have been openly gay since my third year of college and have had only positive experiences with my team mates. I’ve made some of my best friends and shared some of my toughest times and most vulnerable moments with my team mates, who are straight. It’s hard for me to compare what it would be like to not have this because support and love from my team mates are all I have ever known. I do believe times are indeed changing. In just a short eight years, I have seen the subject of openly-gay athletes go from non-existent (where I believe I was the only openly-gay athlete competing in the NCAA) to what seems to be hardly an issue anymore I’m by no means saying that there is NOT room for improvement on the topic in the collegiate/professional athletic realm. But I can certainly attest to the fact that across the country and even the world, it has posed very little to NO problem at all to be a professional athlete as an openly gay male.

  2. Just was searching around for this subject matter and found your site. Looks great and the content is awesome.

    I was an athlete many years ago. I played Lacrosse and thought it best to keep the gay thing under wraps. It was going well until I went out on a date with a guy that didn’t go so well. He wanted another date, but I declined. At that point, he threatened to out me to the team.

    Figuring it was best to have that come from me, I waited until the next team meeting. When the coach asked if anyone had anything to add, I swallowed hard and raised my hand. When he acknowledged me, I took and deep breath and simply said, “I’m gay.” His response was totally unexpected. He stood there looking at me for a few seconds before replying, “Ok, anyone else?” I’d later find out he already knew and it didn’t matter. My teammates though…well, it was a 75/25 split in favor of the guys that were supportive. But, that would be my last year playing with that team though. Life took me somewhere else.

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