AUSTRALIAN BOBSLEDDER AND RUGBY PLAYER
Contrary to what the media said a few years ago, I actually came out when I was about 16. I see myself as coming out as a bobsledder in 2014 rather than a gay man.
When I was 16, I did the whole bisexual thing for a few months, like most teenagers do. Then, one night, while out drinking with friends, I came out as gay. I sobered up the next day and literally freaked out because I knew I had to tell my family. It took a few years for them to fully accept me, but I know now they wouldn’t change it for the world — my parents are beyond proud to have a gay son.
When I was initially asked to try out for the Australian bobsleigh team, I Facebook messaged the driver to tell him. I thought I’d best get it out of the way before I’d even tried out. I’d put myself in a sporting safety net for years playing with the Sydney Convicts Rugby Club, which are an inclusive team, so remembering what it was like growing up playing rugby and how I quit because of my hesitant. It was hard to step outside that inclusive sporting bubble.
Homophobia in sport something I’ve had to deal with from growing up playing rugby and through to today as a member of
the Australian bobsleigh team. Sport is traditionally considered by society as being hyper-masculine and unfortunately gay men are viewed as the exact opposite, or even too feminine to partake.
I know that I have to go a bit further to prove myself as an athlete because you’re athlete, but the ‘gay athlete’.
With so much homophobia in sport, people tend to have it embedded into their belief system that gay men so you need to get past that belief. Although being a gay athlete motivates me to break down these stereotypes; it’s that motivation that drives me every single day.
I believe as more and more athletes come out, the stereotype and perceptions of gay athletes will move a long way in starting to put policies and preventative measures in place, and things have certainly come a long way since I grew up playing rugby. You will never hear the N word on a sporting any thought or action.
When I originally made the team, I was put into a training camp with other nations; this included Jamaica, Russia and Brazil. Initially, I was worried as all these countries had a terrible track record with the LGBT+ community – not only their laws but how we’re treated in society. What I soon learnt was these were not the beliefs of the individual athletes and I’ve gained amazing friends from those countries. I hope that me training, working and competing alongside them will do its bit in changing opinions and beliefs about gay men for the better!
For me, punishing or banning individual athletes for their countries’ poor human rights isn’t the answer — nor is it fair. I often get asked that if I’d made the Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia, would I have attended? The answer is simple: I would. We commit our entire lives to our sport and the Olympics are the ultimate goal. Most athletes only get one chance; I would never expect them to give up on their dreams for a political stand. However, I do think the International Olympic Committee should be looking into these countries’ human rights records before granting them the host nation status.
From my experience, the bobsleigh world has generally been positive. I’ve come across some examples of homophobia, and have even had a negative article written about me in Russia, but the reward of being a role model to young gay athletes is greater than comments have.