Male athletes more likely to fear gay backlash

Gay women are more likely to reveal their sexuality to team-mates than their male counterparts who fear a backlash, Canterbury sporting coaches say.

The comments follow claims by former North Canterbury rugby representative Jay Claydon that his team held a vote to exclude him from the club because he was gay.

The Kaiapoi and Belfast clubs, who he played for in 2006 and 2007, denied he was asked to leave because of his sexuality. Former team-mates backed that assertion.

The Press spoke with Canterbury sporting coaches across the codes, with many saying there would not be an issue if a player in their team announced they were gay.

Mainland Pride women's football coach Gareth Turnbull, who also plays in the local men's premier league, said in his experience gay women felt more comfortable revealing their sexuality than men.

There were two openly gay players in the provincial women's side but coming across a gay male player was not as likely in what was often a "macho" environment.

Turnbull played football in the United States with a gay man who "got a a bit of stick from time to time" but said everyone welcomed the player.

"I think there would definitely be a higher percentage of gay athletes that haven't come out compared with those that have, and the reasons why would include fear of how they would be treated or excluded," he said.

A provincial cricket coach, who declined to be named, agreed, saying homosexuality was relatively common among women in the sport but he did not believe male cricketers would feel as comfortable being openly gay.

There was still a stigma within women's cricket, he said. Some parents were reluctant to allow their daughters to join because lesbian women played the sport.

West Melton senior rugby coach Craig Hale, who has coached at senior and representative level for 20 years, believed many of his players would be accepting of a gay team-mate, if that player respected the sexuality of other players.

In 2005, he coached a player who was openly gay in a country rugby team. The player was "highly respected", Hale said.

"He was out and everyone knew about it. I never saw him receive any ridicule . . . there may have been the odd, cheeky remark but nothing malicious."

A recent study of 2500 Australians, including professional and amateur sportspeople, found 85 per cent of gay and bisexual people had witnessed or experienced discrimination in a sporting environment.

University of Waikato senior lecturer of sport and leisure lisahunter, who changed her name as part of a social experiment, has researched sexuality in schools and physical leisure activities.

Some men were not as accepting because they felt threatened towards "anything that's not the norm".

"Sport is a conservative area that is failing to move with the times," she said.


Gay New Zealand sportspeople:

Blake Skjellerup: The New Zealand Olympic speed skater came out to the public in 2010 during an interview with an Australian magazine.

Ryan Sanders: The former Buller and Canterbury B rugby player revealed he was gay earlier this year. He had never felt comfortable to tell his team-mates during his playing days.

Louisa Wall: An original Black Fern named in New Zealand's first women's rugby team in 1989.

Amini Fonua: The New Zealand-born swimmer, who represented Tonga at the London Olympics, announced he was gay last year.

Blyth Tait: The Olympic gold medal-winning Kiwi equestrian has been openly gay for some time. 

The Press