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.