Thursday 27 July 2017

Revealed: Ireland the second worst offender when it comes to homophobia in sport

Donal Og Cusack has spoken out against homophobia in sport in the past
Donal Og Cusack has spoken out against homophobia in sport in the past

Ger Keville and Sarah Stack

Ireland is the second worst country in the English speaking world when it comes to homophobia in sport, Independent.ie has learned.

An international study found we scored less than our counterparts when it comes to sports people – particularly young lesbians – and spectators feeling accepted, safe and secure.

Almost 9,500 people worldwide - including 501 lesbian, gay, bisexual and straight Irish people – were questioned for the 'Out on the Fields' study.

America was rated the worst offender for inclusion, followed by Ireland, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia and Canada.

While the debate over same-sex marriage referendum heightens, 58% of all participants and 71% of gay men believe homophobia is more common in Irish sports than the rest of society.

Some 75% said they witnessed or experienced homophobia in sport (both straight and LGB) and 75% believe youth team sports are not welcoming or safe for LGB people.

Valarie Mulcahy
Valarie Mulcahy
Conor Cusack pictured in Cork
Former Cork hurler Conor Cusack

Almost nine out of 10 young lesbian sportswomen said they stayed in the closet, compared to 43% of gay men.

Elsewhere more than eight out of ten of those surveyed here do not believe an openly LGB person would be safe as a spectator at a sporting event.

The full results of the damning study – which focused on issues of sexuality in team sports – can be read below

Former Cork hurler Conor Cusack last year joined his brother Donal Og Cusack in revealing that he is also gay. The pair - and Cork GAA footballer Valerie Mulcahy - are among Ireland's most profile sports stars to have come out.

Read more: Sinead Kissane: Valerie Mulcahy may decide to leave Ireland if 'Yes' campaign fails

Bru Amerlynck, a foundering member of the Emerald Warriors, Ireland's first gay rugby team, said slurs and language are part of sport culture.

“It keeps people in the closet for years, fearing they won't be accepted,” he said.

“While Ireland is moving forward with marriage equality sport is a far behind the rest of society.”

Fellow team player Andrew Rooney, who played for Clontarf RFC from 15 until he was 18, said he did not come out to team mates at the time for fear of being dropped from the first team and, eventually, being asked to leave.

The Emerald Warriors
The Emerald Warriors

“Rugby is a big part of my life, I love playing rugby but during this period of my life there was a lot of fear, Fear of being perceived, as many team mates referred to gay people as “queers”, “faggots” and as weak,” he said.

“Keeping my sexuality hidden led to some personal difficulty.  I wanted to come but I was so afraid. I became frustrated with myself, I began to hate myself and what I was.”

Andrew was 18 he decided to come out to his family, and he quit the club amid fears he would not be accepted.

Read more: Robbie Keane writes emotional letter backing a Yes vote in Marriage Referendum

He missed the game he loved and was depressed, angry and destructive, he said.

“A few years after this, through a friend, I became aware of a team that was openly accepting gay rugby players, which is the Emerald Warriors,” he added.

“Since joining the Warriors I have never been happier.

“I think a team needs to openly talk about having gay players to address the people’s fears. They need to actively support gay players in sport.”

 

The Irish study revealed:

• 83% of gay men and 89% of lesbians aged under 22 years have received verbal slurs such as “faggot” or “dyke”.

• A staggering 75% of gay men said they have received verbal threats of harm.

• 41% of gay men and 7% of lesbians have been bullied.

• 58% of all participants and 71% of gay men believe homophobia is more common in Irish sports than the rest of society.

• One in four gay men did not play youth team sports because of the negative experiences they suffered.

• 46% of all participants and 54% of gay men believe LGB people are ‘not accepted at all’ or only ‘accepted a little’ in sporting culture

• 75% witnessed or experienced homophobia in sport (both straight and LGB)

• Irish participants were the second most likely (after the USA) to believe LGB people are not welcome or safe playing youth team sports

Sport Participation

• The majority of lesbian, gay and bisexual people said they played a wide variety of sports in Ireland, particularly in their youth (under 22)

• 1 in 4 (26%) gay men did not play youth team sports with many of these men saying negative

experiences in school PE class (32%) turned them off team sports or they feared they would be rejected because of their sexuality (27%)

Sporting Culture

• 46% of all participants and 54% of gay men believe LGB people are ‘not accepted at all’ or only ‘accepted a little’ in sporting culture

• 58% of all participants and 71% of gay men believe homophobia is more common in Irish sports than the rest of society

Homophobia and Discrimination

• 75% witnessed or experienced homophobia in sport (both straight and LGB)

• Participants were more likely to have witnessed homophobia than experienced it personally: Half (54%) of gay men, 40% of lesbians and 19% of straight men said they had personally experienced homophobia

Of those who have been personally targeted:

• 75% of gay men said they have received verbal threats of harm

• 41% of gay men and 7% of lesbians have been bullied

• 20% of gay men have been physically assaulted

• 83% of gay men and 89% of lesbians have received verbal slurs such as “faggot” or “dyke”

Youth Sport (under 22)

• 75% believe youth team sports are not welcoming or safe for LGB people

• 83% of gay youth said they were at least partially in the closet, keeping their sexuality secret from all or some of their teammates

• Closeted youth said they hid their sexuality because they feared multiple forms of discrimination, for example 55% of gay youth and 21% of lesbians feared they would bullied and 35% of gay youth and 14% of lesbians were worried about discrimination from coaches and officials

Meanwhile, 58% of gay youth and 44% of lesbians were worried about being rejected by teammates

Spectator Stands

• 82% of Irish participants believe an openly gay, lesbian or bisexual person would not be very safe as a spectator at a sporting event

• Spectator stands (43%) followed by school PE class (23%) are the most likely locations for homophobia to occur

How Ireland Compares to other English speaking countries

• Irish participants were the second most likely (after the USA) to believe LGB people are not welcome or safe playing youth team sports

• Ireland also had the highest drop in team sport participation by gay men between youth and adult sport. More gay men in Ireland than in any other country cited fears of discrimination as reasons they didn’t play adult team sport with 31% citing fears of rejection because they were gay and 31% cited negative experiences in school PE class

The full international report can be found on www.outonthefields.com

It was carried out by Repucom for the Bingham Cup Sydney 2014 and supported by a coalition of sports organisations.

The study methodology and results were reviewed by a panel of seven academics from six universities including Victoria University (Australia), Penn State University, University of Massachusetts (USA); Brunel University (UK); University of Winnipeg and Laval University (Canada).

Professor Ian Rivers, from Brunel University London, said: “It’s very clear from this study that much more needs to be done around addressing homophobia.

“This form of discrimination is not only affecting lesbian, gay and bisexual people but the study shows many straight men are also being targeted. I strongly hope that sport governing bodies, organisers of major sporting events, coaches, referees and even athletes take this report away and consider what we each can do to ensure lesbian, gay and bisexual people feel safe and welcome.”

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