Homophobia in the locker room
SACKVILLE (CUP) — Competing on the ice, field, or hard court is supposed to serve as a medium in which humans can be careless, free and at peace. For gay athletes, it can feel more like a prison.
To any athlete, nothing is more important when they compete than getting the win and basking in glory. For decades though, gay athletes have been held back by what You Can Play co-founder, Brian Kitts, calls “casual homophobia.” After campaigns to rid the locker room of racist and sexist behavior, homophobia has been thrust in the spotlight as the next target.
The campaign to end homophobia in the locker room has been a hot-button issue in locker rooms, from the big leagues to local arenas, for a significant portion of the last half-century.
“We can’t do it; they have to,” commented Kitts in reference to how the project can have a realistic impact in the locker room.
You Can Play was co-founded by Kitts, Patrick Burke and Glenn Witman back in March 2012 as a tribute to Patrick’s brother, Brendan, who came out in November 2009 and worked to eradicate homophobia in professional sports before he died in a car crash in February 2010. At the time, Brendan was the student-manager at Miami University for the men’s hockey team.
Despite the gains made in recent years through athletes, executives, journalists, and teams coming together, one Mount Allison athlete still thinks that total acceptance of gay athletes is unbalanced.
“I think that in general it’s more accepted among women to have gay teammates than men,” the athlete, who wished to remain anonymous, answered.
“We’re all the same. Nobody should be judged or made fun of because of their sexual preference.” – Chelsea King
According to another Mt. A athlete, homophobia should not be tolerated in sport.
“We’re all the same. Nobody should be judged or made fun of because of their sexual preference,” said fourth-year hockey forward Chelsea King.
The campaign to end homophobia in the locker room faces some roadblocks. Locker room decisions and the events that transpire in them are usually restricted to athletes and team personnel. This puts the majority of the decisions on the shoulders of athletes and the team to take a stand.
“Humans, by nature, value fairness,” said Kitts. “It’s a matter of giving them the opportunity to get on board with this.”
Since their founding almost a year ago, You Can Play has joined forces with several prominent schools, teams, and athletes, all pledging to take a stand to end homophobia. St. Thomas University Tommies, the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds, University of Ottawa GeeGee’s, and the Ontario Intercollegiate Fastpitch Association have all made the stand at the university sport level in Canada.
However, the battle is still a long way from being over. Kitts noted the importance of not only forming an alliance of gay athletes, but straight athletes as well.
“We’re going to grow out of [casual homophobia],” he commented.
Much like the way of racism and sexism, Kitts is hoping homophobia suffers the same fate, though he admitted change will not come overnight. He referred to several decades ago when it would have been considered acceptable to some degree to use derogatory language towards athletes of different races or gender.
Those times have come and gone now, and Kitts is firmly focused on placing homophobia in the same category. For now he and his team work day in and day out to ensure that athletic ability is the only determining factor for success in sports, from the bright lights of the world’s biggest athletic events to minor hockey game at the local arena.
Photo by Kory D'Entremont/The Argosy