Eighty-five per cent of gay athletes have experienced or witnessed homophobic abuse, according to a groundbreaking new study that reveals widespread discrimination is forcing people out of Australian sport.
In the largest survey of its kind, Out on the Fields paints a shocking picture of a hostile national sporting environment, with almost half of gay and lesbian respondents reporting they had been the direct target of verbal threats, bullying, violence or exclusion from sport.
Of those who said they had been targeted, 13 per cent suffered physical assaults.
The most common form of homophobia was verbal abuse, with 82 per cent saying they had heard or been the target of slurs such as “fag”, “dyke” or “poofter” either as players or spectators.
The study involved almost 2500 people at all levels of sport and was split evenly between gay and straight participants, aged 15 upwards.
Backed by The Australian Sports Commission, Victoria University, and the Federation of Gay Games, the research was commissioned by organisers of the Bingham Cup – the Gay Rugby World Cup, to be held in Sydney next month.
It found homophobic jokes and casual comments such as “that’s so gay” were commonplace. One in five gay and lesbian participants had been excluded from social groups because of their sexuality.
Gay men were much more likely to be targeted than women. The study also revealed that one in four straight men had been the target of homophobia.
The findings come after Channel 7 commentator Brian Taylor called Geelong’s Harry Taylor a “big poofter” live on Saturday night’s pre-game broadcast.
“To all of the people who thought that Brian Taylor’s comments weren’t a big deal, this research shows that homophobic language has a profound impact on our sporting culture,” said Jason Ball, Yarra Glen centre half-back and the first openly gay Australian rules footballer at any level of the game.
“Until we create a more inclusive sporting environment, people will feel forced to stay in the closet until their careers are over.”
In an interview with Sir Michael Parkinson on Sunday night, swimming legend Ian Thorpe said he had not come out earlier because he was worried Australia would not accept a gay Olympic champion.
Sixty-four per cent of gay and lesbian respondents to the survey said homophobia was more common in sporting environments than in other areas of society.
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