Hands-off in­sult to gay rugby team

New doc­u­men­tary re­calls time when other team re­fused to shake hands.

Herald on Sunday - - THIS WEEK - By Ophe­lia Buck­le­ton

New Zea­land’s only gay and in­clu­sive rugby team has opened up on some of the prej­u­dice its play­ers face — in­clud­ing an op­po­si­tion player who re­fused to shake their hands post­match af­ter find­ing out about their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion.

That re­fusal left spec­ta­tor and Auck­land Univer­sity screen pro­duc­tion stu­dent Nevin Govin­dasamy flab­ber­gasted. Now, the 27-year-old has made a doc­u­men­tary fo­cused on the New Zea­land Fal­cons, which ex­plores the bar­ri­ers faced by gay rugby play­ers.

Line-Out fol­lows eight play­ers from the Fal­cons and their coaches over the course of their 2017 sea­son.

Govin­dasamy said although the play­ers he in­ter­viewed felt other teams were gen­er­ally re­spect­ful, ho­mo­pho­bic com­ments did get thrown around.

“Why is it ac­cept­able to have ho­mo­pho­bic com­ments as part and par­cel of the game? It’s not, and it shouldn’t be,” said Govin­dasamy.

As a sport-mad gay man Govin­dasamy loves watch­ing rugby.

But fear of neg­a­tive or ho­mo­pho­bic com­ments means he avoids even hold­ing hands with his part­ner on the side­line.

“Hav­ing to hide any part of my per­son­al­ity I think is so com­pro­mis­ing. I would love to be my­self wher­ever I am.”

Cameron Ste­wart, who fea­tures in the doc­u­men­tary, joined the Pon­sonby-based Fal­cons this year. It was his first sea­son play­ing.

“I knew it would be a safe en­vi­ron­ment and that I could walk in there and be my­self and not have to worry about pro­tect­ing my­self or pro­tect­ing oth­ers too,” he said.

The 26-year-old said the sea­son was “re­ally fun”.

Ste­wart said he faced ho­mo­pho­bic re­marks when he played rugby dur­ing

HWatch video at nzher­ald.co.nz PE lessons at school. “It would be like, ‘Oh no don’t let Cam play be­cause he’ll touch you’, or, ‘Don’t let him in the scrums be­cause he’s gay’.”

Auck­land Rugby chair­man Mike Dono­van said the Fal­cons, formed in 2013, were help­ing chal­lenge stereo­types through their “sheer ex­is­tence”.

“[Rugby] has had to move with the times and it’s great that it has.”

Dono­van said he was dis­ap­pointed to hear about the hand­shak­ing in­ci­dent.

Line-Out is set to be re­leased next year. Govin­dasamy hopes to have a free screen­ing ahead of the Auck­land Pride Fes­ti­val in Fe­bru­ary.

“I think it’s im­por­tant that the doc­u­men­tary is seen. It’s deal­ing with some pretty im­por­tant is­sues.”

Ja­son Ox­en­ham

Stu­dent film-maker Nevin Govin­dasamy, left, doc­u­mented the New Zea­land Fal­cons’ 2017 sea­son, in­clud­ing first-five Cameron Ste­wart.

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