One of the first experiences of homophobia/biphobia which I encountered as a sportsperson was at the hockey astroturf of a private school in Cambridge. I had been officiating a match there earlier in the day, and had discovered on reaching a subsequent match (because, mad person that I am, I often do multiple matches on any given day) that I had lost one of my cards. I returned to the ground to discover that the pitch was taken up with a practice session for the school’s students.
Not wanting to be impolite, I approached the member of Games staff in charge of the session and explained the situation to him. His students were in close attendance and within earshot of our conversation. Much to my surprise, after a pleasant exchange until then, his subsequent comment betrayed an underlying casual prejudice: ‘I hope it isn’t your gay card you’ve lost’.
My initial response, stunned by the flippant nature of his comment, was to mutter a thanks and go for a wander around the pitch, looking for the card. It didn’t take long to find it, even though my mind was spinning with ideas for how to raise the topic with the coach once again, not wanting to leave the matter unchallenged.
I was extremely pleased that at this point, the group of students being coached, who had heard the exchange between us, approached me and apologised on behalf of their coach. They insisted he wasn’t a bad person, despite his comment, and probably only meant it as a joke. I thanked them for their words, and expressed hope that he didn’t mistreat them as their teacher in any context.
Emboldened and heartened by the students’ awareness of the inappropriate nature of the coach’s comments, I approached him before I left. I thanked him for letting me search the pitch, and then also commented that he need not worry about my gay card, as it was a bi card anyway and it had remained firmly in my wallet the whole time. The coach looked very uncomfortable and embarrassed at this, and his students seemed amused.
Questions arising from this week – what examples of homophobia/biphobia have you encountered in organised sports sessions?