Can You Play Sport And Be Openly Gay?

BY Wednesday, 18 October 2017

That's what Chris asked when he came out

Shane and Chris (also known Bushie, pictured in the middle) went to school together, then met Josh at their rowing club. Chris (Bushie) is gay, but that didn’t stop them all from becoming best mates in year 10.

Sitting down with them in their rowing club overlooking the Yarra, the boys had just finished their Saturday morning row.

“I remember the first time I met Bushie – we had an open day for young rowers, and we started doing a fair bit of training together. Though our relationship grew stronger one day, when Bushie was doing pull-ups in the gym and I dacked him and everyone saw.” Shane throws his head back in laughter, and then sees Bushie and Josh shaking their heads. “Well, I thought it was a funny joke.”

“When I first met him I thought ‘this guy is a bit of a jerk.’ Haha nah. I thought he was a pretty cool guy. He was pretty big, so I thought he must have been a good rower. I mean I can’t really remember. We’ve known each other so long. “

“It’s pretty fair to say all three of us gelled together pretty quickly,” Josh jumps in.

“We spend a lot of the time down at the rowing shed. We catch up after training, we’re all pretty close. We go round to each others’ houses. Y’know, we see each other at 5am, then 5pm, spend lots of time together on camps and that too. Sometimes we clash - it can be full on being with each other all the time. Tensions build, and we all have arguments. I’ve seen these guys go off at each other over how cooked pasta should be.”

“Hey - you straight up ruined my pasta!” Bushie cuts in.

Smiling, Josh shakes his head and continues, “So Bushie’s gay. Man, I wouldn’t have assumed it at all, especially because he was always talk about girls and stuff or talk about hooking up with a chick. He played a very good cover game. I can see why though. He went to Carey Grammar, and you know – we made the joke ‘Carey Fairy’ and so we nicknamed him ‘fairy boy’ - this is before he came out. And then when he came out, I went ‘Aww crap. We’ve called him all these names.’”

Shane agrees that it was a non issue for him. “I didn’t really care to be honest. And when he told me, I could see that he was obviously crapping himself and worried about how everyone would react.”

“I guess I’d never had any other friends that had come out. It was just a different experience – not in a bad way or anything. Definitely a surprise, but I was more worried about him being upset, or stressed about it. I’d say that was the hardest part, it was just the thought that he’s struggled with it for so long.”

“Yeah when Bushie told me, we were sitting together on a school trip” Josh remembers, “and I said ‘what’s going on mate?’ and he was like ’I’m gay’. I saw his face, and he was stunned, waiting for my reaction. Inside me, my gut dropped, and every homophobic comment I’d said in the past flashed through my head – ‘fairy boy’, ‘You’re gay’ – I thought to myself ‘I’m such a loser for saying those things!’”

“I don’t know if I shed a tear, but I was almost about to cry, ‘cause I was so happy for him, but at the same time I was like ‘Struth man, you’ve gone through all of this, and it’s all built up, and no one’s known about it,’ like ‘why couldn’t you tell me earlier?’”

“For me, I’ve got a religious background, and it’s always been like ‘nah, you shouldn’t be gay’ – but I don’t even care about that – what it’s about is my mate and how he felt. I was really happy for him, I gave him a hug. I’m sure he felt relief.”

“Yeah…I totally did,” Bushie adds.

“I thought ‘Gee, that must have been so hard for him to tell me’, especially ‘cause I’m the type of guy who likes to joke around about things inappropriately, so I can see how I would have come across as  homophobic.”

Both Josh and Shane are quick to add what’s different now that Chris is out. “After Bushie came out, I can really say I’ve never seen this guy so happy. So much more relaxed. I guess before he was probably wound up a bit tight. What was the tipping point?”

Bushie sits up in his chair, “I got to a point where I had to come out. Not being able to tell my closest friends who I was…it made me so unhappy. I could only do it for a couple of years until it got too much.

Every day growing up, I considered coming out, but thought the reaction would be terrible. With some of the stuff you see in the media, or at school, you end up believing your friends wouldn’t be your mates if they knew this aspect of your life. It’s messed up, yeah? Look at how cool these guys actually are.”

“I guess there’s this stereotype that sporty guys are homophobic – but there are a lot of sporty guys who are gay. I think that stereotype has changed a lot in the past four or five years. I mean I speak to guys who are older than us, and they admit they would have had an issue with it. But I also see some of the younger guys I coach who wouldn’t even bat an eyelid.”

“One of the guys younger than us said he was bi, and it was a complete non-issue, and I just think that’s so impressive. These guys are all footballers, rowers, sporty jocks. I don’t think it’s fair to have that stereotype.”

“There might be some people who have an issue showering with a gay guy - I think they just need to grow up man. People like that just need to have their eyes opened. I definitely think that seeing us not caring at all and not being bothered helps heaps. “

“By far the biggest thing is how much more relaxed and happier Chris is. If he’s alright, so are we.”