Simon Says: Don't Let Your Sexuality Hold You Back
A couple years ago, I qualified for the Australian Bobsleigh team. It has been the highlight of my career as an athlete so far. And it almost never happened.
I grew up playing rugby league south of Sydney. But around the age of 17, after I came out, I gave it all up. The daily homophobia I experienced from not only my opponents, but also my own teammates, grew to be too much. But my upbringing played into my decision as well. I’d grown up in government housing in a very working class area with traditional Australian beliefs.
It was imbedded into my psyche that gay men had no place in sport---Especially a hyper masculine sport like rugby league. Gay men were seen as lesser in this community; I believed this as fact myself, carrying this notion into my early 20s.
It took me years to overcome my own disbelief in a gay man’s ability to play sport. I struggled with this belief even after moving to a predominately gay area and seeing gay sports teams. I would told myself that I’d get back to doing what I loved, but I never did.
Eventually, I bite the bullet; I signed up with an inclusive rugby team, the Sydney Convicts. This would turn out to be the best decision of my life, as it would eventually lead me to Canada to train for a place on the Australia bobsleigh team, a team which I eventually made, giving me the chance to represent Australia.
Only recently has the stereotype of gay men not being athletic begun to change. As we slowly step out of the proverbial closet and become more visible, we collectively challenge and change these negative perceptions. Growing up, gay men---or anyone from the LGBTQI community---were only seen on the occasional TV show or movie. Even then, they were generally perpetuating a certain type of gay man. Everything else I’d heard about gay men came consisted of negative stereotypes from people who I'd now recognize as homophobes. I realize these perceptions I grew up with about gay men were and are extremely far from the truth.
My struggle to align my identity with my sexuality has been an ongoing theme in my life. In my previous article for Gays With Kids, I touched on how I feared my sexuality may prevent me from achieving my childhood goal of one day being a father. Just as I struggled with my belief that gay men can't be athletes, I've also struggled with the idea that gay men can't be fathers. As I've gotten older, I've realized my sexuality may not prevent me from achieving these dreams, but it certainly has given me a lot of hurdles to overcome.
As we become more visible, we can show society that gay men vary and come in all shapes and sizes. We currently have several out gay athletes competing at the highest level, same sex marriage is being recognized in more and more countries, and sites like Gays With Kids are putting the spotlight on gay families. This gives me a sense of comfort that our visibility is not only changing society’s view of us, but also the young members of the LGBTIQ community are being shown that they can be exactly who they were born to be and still achieve all that their hearts desire.
This progress in the LGBTQ community, in many ways, mirrors my own personal journey with accepting that my sexuality isn't a barrier to achieving my dreams. When I came out, I was told I’d never be a successful athlete. I’d never be happy. I’d never be accepted. I’d never find love. I’d never have children. Making the Australian bobsleigh team showed me that I could overcome the hurdles my sexuality may have put in front of me. I can be a successful athlete. I can have kids. (Though I'm still waiting to find that special someone and start a family!)
I’m now certain my sexuality doesn’t play a part in how my life will turn out. The only determining factors to my journey is me and the decisions I make. So to any gay man reading this, who may be feeling limited by his sexuality, please know this:
Your possibilities are endless.