Thursday, 20 May 2010

Dear Akermanis STOP

Dear Jason Akermanis STOP You have made me very upset today STOP Love MD

If you're not from around these parts then you may not know what I'm talking about. Mr. Akermanis is an Australian footballer and today wrote this piece for a newspaper, advising any gay players in the Australian Football League (AFL) not to come out. What utter - excuse my language - bullshit.

I have so many problems with his piece that I don't know where to begin. For the record, I have read Akermanis' column and not just the hype surrounding it. I know what was said and I have made certain to read it several times. He may well have had good intentions in publishing the piece and I can see this in parts. But the vast majority of what he has written just. Gets. My. Back. Up.

First, he claims that a gay player coming out would be 'international news and could break the fabric of a club'. (I'm not sure you all know how hard it is right now not to type 4-letter expletives).

I imagine that it would be difficult coming out in a football club in the first place, but after someone says you may 'break the fabric of a club' in doing so, who would want to? Some of these clubs have long and proud histories, at times threatened by players indulging in alcoholism, drugs, gambling and wife-bashing. But hey, that doesn't matter. According to Aker, coming out as a proud gay man is absolutely the worst thing you can do to your club.

Don't tell that to Welsh rugby captain Gareth Thomas, who came out publicly late last year. He had battled depression for many years and was near suicidal before he told his coach, Scott Johnson, he was gay in 2006. Johnson, correctly deeming that Thomas would need support, told some of his teammates, who then went to Thomas. Their response? 'We don't care. Why didn't you tell us before?'

When Thomas went public 3 years later, largely to provide encouragement for other gay people in sport, he also received overwhelming fan support. Yet Akermanis doesn't think AFL players and fans have quite progressed to that level. One wonders if he thinks they ever will.

Akermanis goes on to claim that a player's coming out would subsequently make his teammates uncomfortable in the change rooms afterwards. That statement is possibly one of the most egotistical I have ever heard. Ooh, he's gay, he must fancy me. What's more, it's childish. 12-year-old boys used to make this argument to me when I was teaching and my response to them is the same as it is to Aker.

Just because someone is gay it does not mean they find you attractive, Jason. Not all men are attractive to gay men, just as not all men are attractive to straight women. Imagine if I walked into your club change rooms when you had your boy-parts out. I am heterosexual and I can say without a sliver of doubt that I would not find you attractive - even if I could see your doodle.

I'm sure you'll all tell me if I'm drawing a long bow here, but isn't Aker's statement rather akin to saying that women should cover up when in the company of men because it would be otherwise 'too tempting' for the men not to take advantage of them? Come on, Aker, give people some credit for behaving with decency.

He then goes on to say that the suicide rate for same sex attracted youth is 4-6 times higher than the average for young males. And he'd like us to deal with this by telling gay players to lie about themselves. To consider their sexuality a dirty little secret that their colleagues and friends won't or can't accept. Because some people might not be able to deal with it and alienate them as a result.

Gee, wouldn't it be grand if we could punish people who do act with prejudice against gay players? Wait! We can. There's these wonderful new-fangled things called anti-discrimination laws!

Again, Aker, you're not giving anyone any credit. Do you really think there aren't enough strong gay males out there to make a stand, or enough principled straight players to say 'this is not ok', were it to happen?

Tom and I heard this story break on the news this morning and we laughed at Akermanis' floundering responses to his grilling from the anchor. Tom then got rather angry. He plays competition rugby and is routinely naked in a change room with other blokes. I asked him how he would feel about one of his teammates being gay. He said it wouldn't matter. I can't remember enough to quote him verbatim, but the gist was that honestly, you'd have to be pretty shallow to give up friendship because someone prefers the same sex.

I have a smart boyfriend, don't I? Perhaps he and the Welsh rugby team can give Aker some lessons.


Andrew said...

Nice work MD. Str8 people often write a better critique of such people than defensive gays. Straight or gay, male of female, unwelcome sexual advances are just that. Of course we must have some humour too. Team mates will be ribbing Aker about bending over in the shower as he doesn't know which of them might be gay. Marvellous self publicity by someone who bleaches their hair and dyes their goatee.

Ann ODyne said...

Akermanis may be able to kick a football, but that doesn't mean he has any brains. Was he actually asked for this opinion?
He is completely wrong of course.
Everybody Out & Proud is the only way to show that gay is not a minority group.

aurora_australis said...

I saw your post, read the first few lines and went straight to the original Aker article out of curiosity. I'm still bristling with anger at his comments, his absolute ignorance and his arrogance. He's a footballer - a good one - but a footballer all the same, not a trained psychologist or sociologist specialising in homosexuality in sports. He's paid to kick a strangely shaped leather ball through two tall white posts, not to advise homosexual athletes on their life decisions. He needs to learn to stick to what he's good at. I hope he cops a whole lot of flak from the boys at Brisbane for this rubbish.

miss diarist said...

The cynic in me wondered if he just wanted some publicity because he's getting old, Andrew. The hair and goatee alone no longer get do it for him. The ironic thing is, he tells people not to come out because it may make others uncomfortable in the showers. The same people that they've been sharing the showers with for how many years? Methinks the problem would be in the heads of narrow-minded folks, not out and proud players.

AOD, I don't think Aker has ever actually been asked for his opinion - he just likes to give it. I'd be horrified if his opinion dissuades someone from coming out.

AA, damn straight (pun not intended). You don't see me giving out karate advice - because I know nothing about it. Same applies to Aker (who, btw, is now at the Bulldogs).

Ann ODyne said...

... and 2 days later we get 'news'

Outed MP David Campbell not alone - one in five men gay
Herald Sun - Janet Fife-Yeomans - ‎4 hours ago‎
DAVID Campbell is not alone. One in five of Australia's politicians, businessmen, union leaders, labourers, farmers - men in general are either openly gay or leading secret double lives, Sydney anthropologist Stephen Juan claims ...

Emm said...

Wow, what a well-written piece! You are right on so many levels and what you have said applies to so many "taboo" subjects like depression or mental health too. This Akermanis was way out of line.

miss diarist said...

AoD, I was going to post on the Campbell story but thought that it needed to die. It's horrible for not only him, but for his family too that he had to live a lie for so long. And Aker wants to encourage this?

Emm, thanks for stopping by! You're right, of course. It's attitudes like Aker's that allow intolerance to perpetuate and go unchecked.

Ann ODyne said...

Yes, 'the story' needs to die.
It is not a story.
My Victorian blogpal Miss Pants had your dilemma and went at it obliquely.
If you visit her blog, it will be about 3rd-down, as she posts daily.

Akers house was egg-bombed the other day (his wife and children were away at the time).
I was distressed that the chickens had gone through the usual chicken-hell to provide the ammunition though.