Saturday, December 22, 2007

Email from a gay student who enjoys playing rugby

A few weeks ago, I got the following email from a relatively new reader:

Dear GB,

I'm a gay French man that has recently moved to London to pursue my dream of working here. At the moment I'm a student again, probably for the last time in my life.

I've been reading your blog for the last couple of months and let me thank you because it has been both inspiring and entertaining. Can't remember how I came across the blog in the first place but can only regret not having found it before. It's inspiring because in some ways, you have the freedom to live your life in a way that I hope I will be able to do in a near future. At the same time it's entertaining because the way you describe these small details of your life that you find interesting and of importance to share with the all world are worth the Booker Prize.

I have to be honest. I'm not even sure why I'm writing to you but possibly it is due to your capacity to have a clear and apparently unprejudiced opinion on what you are told.

Definitely a man's game :-)I am having a strange problem at school. As you can imagine, it's a school full of different people, dozens of different nationalities and interests. I happen to love to play a predominantly "macho" sport which has a strong tradition within the school community, rugby. I have been playing the sport ever since and obviously had to join the school team. However, at school, I have also joined the Gay Club (this is not its name but basically it's the club for all gays and lesbians within the school community). Now, these two clubs have come to be almost mutually exclusive, much against my will. Me being gay is something that has to do with my private life so I never thought it should influence my life negatively. Therefore, being gay has never been announced but it has never been denied either. Being a straight looking and acting man, it's not difficult to go unnoticed. However, the gay club is, even though the school is full of intelligent people, still seen as a strange thing. Don't really know how would the guys in the team would react to my admission of "gayness". And the other guys, the members of the gay club, are always pressing and trying to make me come out to the rest of the school. The result is that sometimes I find myself in the middle, not taking part of the activities of the fairly active gay club and not taking advantage of the multiple professional and social activities they develop.

Do you think this is normal? Can I have and deal with my life the way I want?

Sorry for the confession and thanks for... being there


When I first got this email it made me feel slightly depressed. In recent years, so much has been achieved in terms of being gay. The Internet makes it easy for gay people to find each other, and in places like the UK there are anti-discrimination laws as well as civil partnerships for gay couples. But a young guy who seems comfortable with his sexuality doesn't feel he's got the freedom to play rugby AND associate with other gay guys at the school he's going to :-(.

But at least he's in London which is a gay friendly city :-), and in a gay friendly city, why shouldn't he come out to his team mates in the rugby team? My experience of "alpha-male" groups like rugby teams is that individually the guys often don't care if another guy is gay. That’s especially likely to be true at a school in London. However, what the guys DO worry about is what the other guys in the group will think. It's the "If I don't mind that this bloke is gay, will my team mates think that I might be gay :-(?" mentality. Because of this, coming out to them as a group is unlikely to be a good idea.

However, coming out to a few of them individually shouldn't be a problem. If there are any guys in the team who he's friendly with, and especially if they've grown up in London, then he should start with those. Although I can't help thinking that explicitly saying "I'm gay" is a bit crude and archaic. Simply not hiding it seems much more appropriate. So if he can get into one-to-one conversations with any guys in the rugby team, if his team mate starts talking about dating girls he should simply say that he prefers to date guys as though it's the most natural thing in the world. Which of course it is if you're a gay bloke!

Coming out to anyone in any situation requires a certain amount of confidence. In particular, the reader should bear in mind what I call the confidence mirror. As long as he's comfortable being gay, and behaves as though no one else should care, then that's likely to be the response he gets from whoever he's talking to. Even if he only privately comes out to one or two of his team mates, then assuming it goes well, if the subject ever comes up in a team situation he'll know that he's got some support.

His friends in the gay society are being unfair too. It's wrong of them to expect him to wear a big gay badge, just because that's what they presumably do all the time. This reminds me about the whole issue of 'outing' people as gay, and the only time I think that it's appropriate is if someone is anti-gay in public but gay in private. So if this reader gets any further comments from them about publicly coming out to his rugby team, he should politely and confidently tell them that it's none of their business.

Nelly, the mascot of the Kings Cross Steelers RFCIf the worst comes to the worst and for whatever reason he ends up being alienated by the school rugby team, then there is another option for playing rugby. London actually has a gay rugby team called the King Cross Steelers Rugby Football Club :-). It's not immediately obvious from their website that they're gay, but if you look closely you'll see that e.g. they're sponsored by, and that they had a fundraising event at the Two Brewers a couple of months ago. Indeed, their web site has the perfect attitude in connection with the reader's issue, namely that being gay has got nothing to do with playing good rugby. Don't hide the fact if you are gay but don't make a big issue out of it either. For guys who're keen on playing rugby, it's the rugby that's important!

Do any other readers have any other thoughts on this issue?


Masturbedroom said...

I think your response says it all GB. Just a few links the reader might want to check out:

Ian Roberts

Nigel Owens

Will Sporno Win the Rugby World Cup?

Have a Gay Christmas!

Bill said...

A very good exposition on this young man's problem. It so happens I have been a supporting member of the KXSRFC for many years and from forum discussions there it is clear that I am not the only gay who finds Ben Cohen very attractive. Obviously he is not gay, unfortunately, but neither is he (apparently) in any way upset by the fact that he has a gay fan base, indeed he is said to be very appreciative of it; a very mature and sensible attitude, I think. I don't think there is the same unthinking negativity towards gays in rugby as seems to exist amongst footballers; rugby players are generally so 'macho' that they mostly seemn pretty sure of themselves and their own sexuality, whatever it happens to be.

Bryn said...

Have a great christmas. Bryn x

Anonymous said...

As a member of the Kings Cross Steelers, all I can say is (as correctly pointed out by GB) it's all about playing rugby, not someones sexuality. The club has a very mixed team of gay and straight players. At the end of the day, we are all out to achieve one thing - Win! We welcome anyone to come along to the club and see if they want to play for us.

Mikey said...

I can't remember the last time I had the "you know I'm gay" talk with anyone, yet almost everyone I come in contact with knows. That's because, as you suggest GB, when it is appropriate to the conversation, I mention my partner as naturally as my straight friends mention their spouses. And I always do it with the assumption that everyone already knows and it's no big deal, which is usually (always?) the case.