A Shifting Perspective Homosexuality in Sports
California Polytechnic State University
San Luis Obispo
May 28, 2013
A Shifting Perspective Homosexuality in Sports
Times have changed. The relationship between homosexuality and sports evolved into an inclusive, accepting culture from an aggressive, homophobic culture. To explore this shift we will look at the history of homosexuality in sports, experiences of gay men in sports, and gay men “coming out” in sports. Understanding the history of homosexuality in sports reveals potential for the future and explains the greater number of athletes coming out in today’s society. A Homophobic History
Homophobia exhibits the aggressive culture where society once stood before it formed into an inclusive society for homosexuality. “Homophobia is a generalized fear or intolerance of lesbians, gay men, bisexual transexual, and inter-sexed people--that is, anyone who isn’t clearly classifiable as a heterosexual male or female” (Coakley, 2012, p.245 ). Homophobia plays a critical role in the relationship between homosexuality and sports. “Whether participating in individual sports or team sports, there are few openly gay athletes in the Western world” (Anderson, 2011, p. 566). “They remain closeted because they assumed that the high degree of homophobic discourse, alongside their teammates’ vocalized opposition to homosexuality, indicated that they would have a troubled experience coming out” (Anderson, 2012, p.566, Woog, 1998). Homophobia created a hostile climate throughout the eighties and nineties toward homosexuals which resulted in male athletes staying in the closet. Not only were male homosexuals staying in the closet, but also they were pressured into conforming to hegemonic masculinity. After interviewing heterosexual male athletes, Messner stated that, “The extent of homophobia in the sports world is staggering...Boys learn early that to be gay, to be suspected of being gay, or even unable to prove one’s heterosexual status in not acceptable” (1992, p. 34). Homophobia still exists in the world and the world of sports but currently there is a gradual deterioration of homophobia in the culture of the world and sports. Anderson states that, “By the end of the first decade of the twentieth century, studies began reporting a rapidly decreasing level of homophobia, even in men’s team sports” (2011, p. 569). In the a Sports Illustrated magazine poll in 2006 the majority of 1,401 professional team sport athletes said that they would welcome a gay teammate. Because the culture of homophobia and hegemonic masculinities are shifting there are a greater number of athletes coming out the closet. Gay Men’s Experience in Sports
Gay men’s experience of homosexuality in sport shifted from a harsh, hostile experience to a welcoming environment which leads to an increase of openly gay athletes. Harassment, vandalism, displacement, and physical abuse describes Anderson’s experience coming out as one of America’s first openly gay high school coaches in 1994 (Anderson 2000). Homophobia was prevalent in his experience, especially among administration and football players. He describes the effects of his coming out on his athletes as follows:
My athletes were victimized by many members of the high school’s football team,
assumed gay through a guilt-by-association process... A two-year period of abuse saw
damage to our cars, the extradition of my athletes from one locker room to another, and
threats on our lives. Eventually, a football player brutally assaulted one of my
heterosexual athletes. My athlete endured a beating that resulted in four broken facial
bones, including his palate, as the assailant called him a “f**king f*ggot” while beating
his head into the asphalt...and the high school principle dismissed the possibility of it
being a hate crime. (Anderson, 2011, pg.566) This account...
References: (2013, April 30) NBA 's Jason Collins hopes gay athletes will follow suit. BBC News. Retrieved from
Adams, A. , & Anderson, E. (2012). Exploring the relationship between homosexuality and sport among the teammates of a small, midwestern catholic college soccer team. Sport, Education and Society, 17(3), 347-363.
Anderson, E. (2005) In the game: gay athletes and the cult of masculinity. Albany, NY, State University of New York Press.
Anderson, E. (2011). Masculinities and sexualities in sport and physical cultures: Three decades of evolving research. J Homosex, 58(5), 565-578.
Anderson, E. (2002) Openly gay athletes contesting hegemonic masculinity in a homophobic environment. Gender and Society, 16, 860-877.
Coakley, J.J. (2012). Sport in society: Issues and controversies (10th Ed.). Boston: WCB/McGraw-Hill. [TEXTBOOK, ONE AUTHOR]
Messner, M.A. (1992) Power at Play: Sports and the problem of masculinity. Boston, M.A, Beacon Press.
Wong, D. (1998). Jocks: Stories of real gay athletes. Hollywood, CA: Alyson Press.
Please join StudyMode to read the full document