• Homophobia in sport and the Pride in Sport Index

    17m 21s

    Andrew Purchas from the Bingham Cup talks about homophobia in sport and the Pride in Sport Index at the 2016 Diversity and inclusion in Sport Forum. 

    Download video

Good morning everyone and it’s a great pleasure to be here and certainly congratulations to Paul and his organising team for putting on this convention.

I think it’s amazing to see how the attention around homophobia in sport has grown over the last five years. It has basically gone from nothing to, I don’t know, probably about 60kphs, which is great.

Today I’m going to talk to you a little bit about my story, why I’m here which I actually don’t normally do. I’m going to talk a little bit about some of the issues that still exist and also some of the solutions that I think we need to put in place in order to improve the situation.

Yeah, so I was a typical kid except I was extremely tall. This photo was when I was six years old and my dad is a bit under six foot so, you know, I was kind of a freak to be honest but sport was my life. I played a lot of rugby, soccer, swimming, basketball, rowing - I had three older brothers and pretty much in a typical fashion I was like a human punching bag which made me stronger and respect them despite me being bigger than - my older brother was six years older than me but I was taller than him. It still didn’t stop him punching the shit out of me I must say.

Sport continued to dominate my life. After I left school and entered university I continued to play a lot of rugby, rowing and basketball. I was okay without being great. I was kind of a Jack of all trades but I did know from an early age that I was attracted to men but I really had no idea that I was gay. For me and I’m sure a lot of people have the same situation that the idea of being attracted to men and the idea of being gay seemed to be two completely different components, two completely different ideals and they were very difficult to reconcile. I was convinced for a long time that this was a phase that was just going to go away.

I remember I used to go to gay bars and if someone came and talked to me I’d pretend I was doing research for a project and not really being there for any other reason. 

I played a lot of rugby at Sydney University and also colleagues and I can say undoubtedly I didn’t hear any homophobic comments. The fact is that to be gay in those clubs was completely an anathema to the way they were set up. I mean it was as unthinkable that you could be playing sport, playing rugby at that level in these clubs and be gay.

I met a guy when I was 26 who I’m actually still with. It took me two years to tell him that I actually really wasn’t bisexual. He actually asked me one day if he had the straight pill would I take it and I said “Yes”. It was shocking for him. I can’t believe how patient he was. I couldn’t introduce him to my friends. He was six years younger than me from a completely different background. My friends are all from a similar background. There was no way I could integrate those two lives.

I used to live with two of the guys I was playing rugby with. It was the day before mobile phones and he used to ring up and they couldn’t say his name to say he’s called. I mean that was the environment that I was growing up in in my 20s.

Even at this point when word got out that I was gay and I’d hear it back through the channels, I would ring people up to tell them it wasn’t true that really the rumour was wrong and how could I be gay? So this went on for probably a couple of years or maybe three years after I met my boyfriend and then finally I realised the joke was up. I remember I told my dad that I was finally gay - he was one of the last ones and he actually equated it to my sister dying. I can say that over the passage of time - we had a great relationship. He used to deliver cups of tea to my boyfriend in bed in the morning so everything worked out fine but through this period I lost my interest in rugby, lost my interest in sport and to my eldest brother who was the last one I told I was gay - I’d been Best Man at his wedding six months before - he didn’t speak to me for about a year afterwards. For him, me losing an interest in sport was the final nail in my heterosexual coffin. That was the clincher.

Then in 2000 my partner and I moved to San Francisco and I saw an ad in the paper there that a gay rugby team was starting. I hadn’t played rugby for about three or four years but I thought yeah, why not? I’ll go down, check it out and see what’s going on. They had just started. They weren’t very good at playing rugby I must say! Initially it seemed to me they were more into being rugby players than playing rugby! Now the passage of time that turned out not to be right and I ended up I played in their first game and helped them out a bit and then work took me all over the place but there was a guy who was in that team. His name was Mark Bingham and most of you in this room have probably heard about him. He was a good rugby player, big guy, bigger than me. He’d played college rugby and on September 11 he was in the fourth plane that got hijacked and he and three of the passengers overtook the plane and crashed it into a field in Pennsylvania, obviously all dying and in his honour San Francisco Fog which was the team in San Francisco set up what was called the Bingham Cup and that was in 2002 so I came back and played for the San Francisco Fog and there were eight teams from around the world, six from the US, two from the UK and this fundamentally changed my mind around the importance of sport to gay men.

I saw this - there were probably 60 people all up, guys who had not had the opportunity or the chance to play team sport before. Guys who had not had the opportunity or the feeling to value what it meant to be part of a team. In the US if you’re not playing competitive team sport from High School up you don’t get a chance so not only was that a barrier but also their sexuality and it had a fundamental impact on my life seeing how important it was. The rugby standard was terrible but seeing the enjoyment these guys had of experiencing something which they hadn’t had the opportunity to do was amazing.

So my partner and I came back to Australia in 2003 and the next Bingham Cup was in London in 2004. I set up the Sydney Convicts with a bunch of people as a gay rugby team in Sydney. It was amazingly easy. We got about 25 guys in about three months and raised a bunch of money to go over and played in London. We didn’t win. Since then the Bingham Cup has been played in New York, Dublin, Minneapolis, Manchester, Sydney and Nashville. There are now 70 gay rugby clubs around the world. There are now gay rugby clubs in Melbourne, Auckland and Brisbane. In fact the Sydney Convicts won the Bingham Cup and Sydney played last year and the Melbourne Chargers, a really strong club from Melbourne won the Bingham Cup played in Nashville so that growth and journey of gay rugby around the world has been amazing but the Sydney Convicts won the right to host the Bingham Cup in Sydney, we won the right to host the 2014 so we were told we’d won the right to host it in 2012 - we thought and Erik Dennison was part of that committee, we thought we want to make this about more than just a rugby tournament. We want to shine a spotlight on the fact that homophobia does exist in sport.

That had not really been an intention of our team previously but we thought here’s an opportunity. We’re going to get 1500 gay rugby players, the first gay rugby tournament in Australia to really shine a focus on this and there had been instances where Ryan Stig who had texted this horrible homophobic comment; he’s a Newcastle Knights player which then meant that Andrew Webster then basically came out on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald. Andrew Webster is a Sydney Morning Journalist.

One of the guys in this photo, Simon Dunn who was playing in our team had the shit punched out of him on Oxford Street. One of our own players was telling the story about he was playing for a premier league club and the amount of homophobia that he’d experienced and also there are always the anecdotal stories that we’d had about people in our club who had experienced homophobia so we knew that there was something that needed to be done but also what was clear that there had been precious little research done on the level of homophobia in sport not only in Australia but in the world. What research has been done - Victoria certainly leads the way. There was a great study in 2010 called ‘Come out to play’ - Caroline Symons and some of her colleagues put that together and basically although it was a relatively small sample it demonstrated how acute and how severe the problem was in terms of the level of abuse and the level of engagement.

Also the Bingham Cup - we realised that this was an opportunity for us to do our own research and if you look outside the door there’s a pull up banner which has got some of the results of the out on the fields research which was led by Erik Dennison who was here. We had 10,000 respondents from six countries. It was an enormous study. It’s the largest International study of homophobia in sport and we were actually shocked by the results. They are absolutely appalling across the board. The US was by far the worst. The countries were US, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, the UK and - Canada. How could I forget Canada? I think there were only 2% of respondents in Australia who thought that LGBT people were completely accepted in Australian sport and 80% of all participants, 82% of LGBT participants said they had witnessed or experienced homophobia in sport. I mean these statistics are absolutely, absolutely horrifying so that said to us that something needed to be done. It was great just having a rugby tournament but something needed to be done and as part of that we looked at the policies of the four major football codes and cricket and we found without exception none of them had inclusion policies. They all relied on anti‑vilification and antidiscrimination policies as it relates to LGBTI people.

There were no statements in their policy framework which would indicate that they needed to take a positive stance. It was enough at that point in time that they were prepared not to discriminate and not to vilify and that clearly wasn’t good enough so we approached the Australian Rugby Union who had a new CEO, Bill Pulver at the time and I think that he was shocked that that was the case. He came on board and said, “Yes, we will do what it needs to do. We will implement a policy before the Bingham Cup” which was about 16 months away. 

Then we got the CEOs of the NRL, the AFL, FFA and Cricket Australia all came on board. They had a public signing of a commitment to implement policies consistent with a framework that we had developed and we thought that this was great. This was nirvana. Fantastic - these guys are finally taking this seriously and there was pressure. They made a commitment to sign and implement policies within a 16 month timeframe. Only one of the sports really did that. The other sports did stuff, they had action plans and they were notionally engaged but really it wasn’t enough so there was a series of awareness campaigns that we continued to run and clearly there’s been a marked difference in terms of the awareness around this fact. The pictures up here show that fantastic Pride game that was held here earlier in the year and congratulations to anyone here who was involved. That was absolutely groundbreaking along with Skins, we ran a Rainbow lasers around the sport in April which had a lot of high profile people identifying that this still is an issue but we recognised that we really needed to do something different and I’ll talk about the Pride in Sport Index in a moment but I just want to talk a little bit about the role that gay sporting groups play and the comments that I’ve heard about - is the fact that we have gay sporting groups, does it actually indicate that really the fact that their existence means that we haven’t solved the problem and I would say that’s not the right way of looking at it. The way of looking at it is that they play a very important role in terms of enabling gay people to participate in sport and that we should support them wherever.

Now getting onto the Pride in Sport Index we realised it was very important that we have a notion bigger than just a signature on a piece of paper in the sport. Based on the success of Pride in Diversity which has basically changed the success of workplace diversity for LGBTI people we decided to set up the Pride in Sport Index along with the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Australian Sports Commission and I’ve got a short video which will talk to you about what it’s all about. Thank you.

(Video shown) - text as follows - ‘The Pride in Sport program is a support program for National and State sporting organisations as well as major clubs to support the inclusion of LGBTI people in sport regardless of whether they’re a player, a coach, volunteer, administrative staff member or spectator. The program includes access to expert advice. It also includes access to tailored training programs whether it’s about raising LGBTI awareness or about creating allies in sport that really help to influence change across the game regardless of what your sport is. 

Pride in Sport means to me acceptance, inclusiveness in an environment that you love and you’re passionate about. It’s important because the impact it can have on others - just one small thing saying “I’m gay” for example can have a profound effect on many people.

In the development of the Pride in Sport Index and getting the football codes onboard or all the sporting codes onboard it was really important not just to have anecdotal evidence and the Bingham Cup commissioned the largest International survey into the prevalence of homophobia in sport and the results were appalling. They were significantly worse than we thought so we had the backing of this academic research to actually justify that something needed to happen and so the Human Rights Commission and the Australian Sports Commission and the Bingham Cup commissioned Pride in Diversity to develop a Pride in Sport Index, an index which would be ongoing and would provide a framework for assessing a benchmark in terms of where Australian sport is in relation to sexuality and gender diversity and really looking for them to increase and improve over time. 
Good morning everyone and it’s a great pleasure to be here and certainly congratulations to Paul and his organising team for putting on this convention.

I think it’s amazing to see how the attention around homophobia in sport has grown over the last five years. It has basically gone from nothing to, I don’t know, probably about 60kphs, which is great.

Today I’m going to talk to you a little bit about my story, why I’m here which I actually don’t normally do. I’m going to talk a little bit about some of the issues that still exist and also some of the solutions that I think we need to put in place in order to improve the situation.

Yeah, so I was a typical kid except I was extremely tall. This photo was when I was six years old and my dad is a bit under six foot so, you know, I was kind of a freak to be honest but sport was my life. I played a lot of rugby, soccer, swimming, basketball, rowing - I had three older brothers and pretty much in a typical fashion I was like a human punching bag which made me stronger and respect them despite me being bigger than - my older brother was six years older than me but I was taller than him. It still didn’t stop him punching the shit out of me I must say.

Sport continued to dominate my life. After I left school and entered university I continued to play a lot of rugby, rowing and basketball. I was okay without being great. I was kind of a Jack of all trades but I did know from an early age that I was attracted to men but I really had no idea that I was gay. For me and I’m sure a lot of people have the same situation that the idea of being attracted to men and the idea of being gay seemed to be two completely different components, two completely different ideals and they were very difficult to reconcile. I was convinced for a long time that this was a phase that was just going to go away.

I remember I used to go to gay bars and if someone came and talked to me I’d pretend I was doing research for a project and not really being there for any other reason. 

I played a lot of rugby at Sydney University and also colleagues and I can say undoubtedly I didn’t hear any homophobic comments. The fact is that to be gay in those clubs was completely an anathema to the way they were set up. I mean it was as unthinkable that you could be playing sport, playing rugby at that level in these clubs and be gay.

I met a guy when I was 26 who I’m actually still with. It took me two years to tell him that I actually really wasn’t bisexual. He actually asked me one day if he had the straight pill would I take it and I said “Yes”. It was shocking for him. I can’t believe how patient he was. I couldn’t introduce him to my friends. He was six years younger than me from a completely different background. My friends are all from a similar background. There was no way I could integrate those two lives.

I used to live with two of the guys I was playing rugby with. It was the day before mobile phones and he used to ring up and they couldn’t say his name to say he’s called. I mean that was the environment that I was growing up in in my 20s.

Even at this point when word got out that I was gay and I’d hear it back through the channels, I would ring people up to tell them it wasn’t true that really the rumour was wrong and how could I be gay? So this went on for probably a couple of years or maybe three years after I met my boyfriend and then finally I realised the joke was up. I remember I told my dad that I was finally gay - he was one of the last ones and he actually equated it to my sister dying. I can say that over the passage of time - we had a great relationship. He used to deliver cups of tea to my boyfriend in bed in the morning so everything worked out fine but through this period I lost my interest in rugby, lost my interest in sport and to my eldest brother who was the last one I told I was gay - I’d been Best Man at his wedding six months before - he didn’t speak to me for about a year afterwards. For him, me losing an interest in sport was the final nail in my heterosexual coffin. That was the clincher.

Then in 2000 my partner and I moved to San Francisco and I saw an ad in the paper there that a gay rugby team was starting. I hadn’t played rugby for about three or four years but I thought yeah, why not? I’ll go down, check it out and see what’s going on. They had just started. They weren’t very good at playing rugby I must say! Initially it seemed to me they were more into being rugby players than playing rugby! Now the passage of time that turned out not to be right and I ended up I played in their first game and helped them out a bit and then work took me all over the place but there was a guy who was in that team. His name was Mark Bingham and most of you in this room have probably heard about him. He was a good rugby player, big guy, bigger than me. He’d played college rugby and on September 11 he was in the fourth plane that got hijacked and he and three of the passengers overtook the plane and crashed it into a field in Pennsylvania, obviously all dying and in his honour San Francisco Fog which was the team in San Francisco set up what was called the Bingham Cup and that was in 2002 so I came back and played for the San Francisco Fog and there were eight teams from around the world, six from the US, two from the UK and this fundamentally changed my mind around the importance of sport to gay men.

I saw this - there were probably 60 people all up, guys who had not had the opportunity or the chance to play team sport before. Guys who had not had the opportunity or the feeling to value what it meant to be part of a team. In the US if you’re not playing competitive team sport from High School up you don’t get a chance so not only was that a barrier but also their sexuality and it had a fundamental impact on my life seeing how important it was. The rugby standard was terrible but seeing the enjoyment these guys had of experiencing something which they hadn’t had the opportunity to do was amazing.

So my partner and I came back to Australia in 2003 and the next Bingham Cup was in London in 2004. I set up the Sydney Convicts with a bunch of people as a gay rugby team in Sydney. It was amazingly easy. We got about 25 guys in about three months and raised a bunch of money to go over and played in London. We didn’t win. Since then the Bingham Cup has been played in New York, Dublin, Minneapolis, Manchester, Sydney and Nashville. There are now 70 gay rugby clubs around the world. There are now gay rugby clubs in Melbourne, Auckland and Brisbane. In fact the Sydney Convicts won the Bingham Cup and Sydney played last year and the Melbourne Chargers, a really strong club from Melbourne won the Bingham Cup played in Nashville so that growth and journey of gay rugby around the world has been amazing but the Sydney Convicts won the right to host the Bingham Cup in Sydney, we won the right to host the 2014 so we were told we’d won the right to host it in 2012 - we thought and Erik Dennison was part of that committee, we thought we want to make this about more than just a rugby tournament. We want to shine a spotlight on the fact that homophobia does exist in sport.

That had not really been an intention of our team previously but we thought here’s an opportunity. We’re going to get 1500 gay rugby players, the first gay rugby tournament in Australia to really shine a focus on this and there had been instances where Ryan Stig who had texted this horrible homophobic comment; he’s a Newcastle Knights player which then meant that Andrew Webster then basically came out on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald. Andrew Webster is a Sydney Morning Journalist.

One of the guys in this photo, Simon Dunn who was playing in our team had the shit punched out of him on Oxford Street. One of our own players was telling the story about he was playing for a premier league club and the amount of homophobia that he’d experienced and also there are always the anecdotal stories that we’d had about people in our club who had experienced homophobia so we knew that there was something that needed to be done but also what was clear that there had been precious little research done on the level of homophobia in sport not only in Australia but in the world. What research has been done - Victoria certainly leads the way. There was a great study in 2010 called ‘Come out to play’ - Caroline Symons and some of her colleagues put that together and basically although it was a relatively small sample it demonstrated how acute and how severe the problem was in terms of the level of abuse and the level of engagement.

Also the Bingham Cup - we realised that this was an opportunity for us to do our own research and if you look outside the door there’s a pull up banner which has got some of the results of the out on the fields research which was led by Erik Dennison who was here. We had 10,000 respondents from six countries. It was an enormous study. It’s the largest International study of homophobia in sport and we were actually shocked by the results. They are absolutely appalling across the board. The US was by far the worst. The countries were US, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, the UK and - Canada. How could I forget Canada? I think there were only 2% of respondents in Australia who thought that LGBT people were completely accepted in Australian sport and 80% of all participants, 82% of LGBT participants said they had witnessed or experienced homophobia in sport. I mean these statistics are absolutely, absolutely horrifying so that said to us that something needed to be done. It was great just having a rugby tournament but something needed to be done and as part of that we looked at the policies of the four major football codes and cricket and we found without exception none of them had inclusion policies. They all relied on anti‑vilification and antidiscrimination policies as it relates to LGBTI people. There were no statements in their policy framework which would indicate that they needed to take a positive stance. It was enough at that point in time that they were prepared not to discriminate and not to vilify and that clearly wasn’t good enough so we approached the Australian Rugby Union who had a new CEO, Bill Pulver at the time and I think that he was shocked that that was the case. He came on board and said, “Yes, we will do what it needs to do. We will implement a policy before the Bingham Cup” which was about 16 months away. 

Then we got the CEOs of the NRL, the AFL, FFA and Cricket Australia all came on board. They had a public signing of a commitment to implement policies consistent with a framework that we had developed and we thought that this was great. This was nirvana. Fantastic - these guys are finally taking this seriously and there was pressure. They made a commitment to sign and implement policies within a 16 month timeframe. Only one of the sports really did that. The other sports did stuff, they had action plans and they were notionally engaged but really it wasn’t enough so there was a series of awareness campaigns that we continued to run and clearly there’s been a marked difference in terms of the awareness around this fact. The pictures up here show that fantastic Pride game that was held here earlier in the year and congratulations to anyone here who was involved. That was absolutely groundbreaking along with Skins, we ran a Rainbow lasers around the sport in April which had a lot of high profile people identifying that this still is an issue but we recognised that we really needed to do something different and I’ll talk about the Pride in Sport Index in a moment but I just want to talk a little bit about the role that gay sporting groups play and the comments that I’ve heard about - is the fact that we have gay sporting groups, does it actually indicate that really the fact that their existence means that we haven’t solved the problem and I would say that’s not the right way of looking at it. The way of looking at it is that they play a very important role in terms of enabling gay people to participate in sport and that we should support them wherever.

Now getting onto the Pride in Sport Index we realised it was very important that we have a notion bigger than just a signature on a piece of paper in the sport. Based on the success of Pride in Diversity which has basically changed the success of workplace diversity for LGBTI people we decided to set up the Pride in Sport Index along with the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Australian Sports Commission and I’ve got a short video which will talk to you about what it’s all about. Thank you.

(Video shown) - text as follows - ‘The Pride in Sport program is a support program for National and State sporting organisations as well as major clubs to support the inclusion of LGBTI people in sport regardless of whether they’re a player, a coach, volunteer, administrative staff member or spectator. The program includes access to expert advice. It also includes access to tailored training programs whether it’s about raising LGBTI awareness or about creating allies in sport that really help to influence change across the game regardless of what your sport is. 

Pride in Sport means to me acceptance, inclusiveness in an environment that you love and you’re passionate about. It’s important because the impact it can have on others - just one small thing saying “I’m gay” for example can have a profound effect on many people.

In the development of the Pride in Sport Index and getting the football codes onboard or all the sporting codes onboard it was really important not just to have anecdotal evidence and the Bingham Cup commissioned the largest International survey into the prevalence of homophobia in sport and the results were appalling. They were significantly worse than we thought so we had the backing of this academic research to actually justify that something needed to happen and so the Human Rights Commission and the Australian Sports Commission and the Bingham Cup commissioned Pride in Diversity to develop a Pride in Sport Index, an index which would be ongoing and would provide a framework for assessing a benchmark in terms of where Australian sport is in relation to sexuality and gender diversity and really looking for them to increase and improve over time. 

To participate in the Pride in Sport Index you can download the documents from Pride in Diversity’s website. Participation is open to all National and State sporting organisations as well as for other associated awards clubs and individuals. Participation is open all year round regardless of whether that year, that assessable year has already commenced.

When it comes to LGBTIQ inclusion in Australian sport in the future I hope that it’s actually not a big deal and not an issue and it’s treated the same way so for example our football codes have rounds that celebrate multiculturalism. When it comes to inclusion for the LGBTI community we have these same rounds and we’re not always talking about who is going to be the first player to come out.

We need to be proactive about making the change. It won’t just happen on its own. We can’t just stop the vilification and discrimination. There needs to be active policies put in place to actually assist the process.

The LGBTIQ community is not going anywhere. At the end of the day your sexuality shouldn’t stop you from participating in a sport or an event that you love.

So organisations whether they be National or State sporting organisations, clubs or even individuals can get involved with Pride in Sport by joining as a member. There are membership packages to suit all levels but also participating in the Pride in Sport Index. There’s no obligation around membership to participate in the Pride in Sport Index. You can follow us on Facebook and Twitter under Pride in Sport.au or Pride in Sport Australia’.