A common theme for gay and bi athletes are early experiences of homophobia in sports. Despite the progress made by LGBT athletes such as Australian Olympians Natalie Cook, Matthew Mitcham, Ian Thorpe, and Mathew Helm, Aussie footballer Jason Ball, Hayley Bateup, an Australian professional ironwoman, and Casey Dellacqua, an Australian professional tennis player, a recent report states Australian LGBT athletes are more like to hide their sexuality than athletes from many other nations.
The 2015 Out On The Fields study found 80 per cent of those involved in sport in Australia believed gays and lesbians would not be accepted within the sporting community. No wonder The Out in the Fields study points to familiar seeds of anxiety and aggression like school PE classes with many young LGBT students and athletes citing discrimination from coaches and officials as the main reason for keeping their sexuality a secret.
With nine out of 10 young people feeling they could not be honest about their sexuality, obviously there needs to be policies and programs put in place by the sporting codes, Cricket Australia, AFL, NRL, Rugby Union and Football Federation Australia. The codes have committed to developing a Pride in Sport index that would provide a benchmark for the level of inclusiveness of each sport. The index would not only ensure there’s no homophobic activity, but also that the various sporting codes would create a positive and inclusive environment.
It’s a real loss for all sports when there is a whole pool of talent that feels they can’t participate. It is clear that there is still a long way to go to stamp out homophobia in sports. Many feel it’s a generational process. What’s important is that all sports in Australia take an active step in ensuring they create an inclusive environment.
Many well-known and not so well known people have stepped up to declare their support for stamping out any form of homophobia. One well known figure in the Australian real estate investment market place is known as a nurturing, humanitarian leader, supporting numerous causes that benefit a broad range of people. More people like her need to step up from all walks of life to change the attitudes of others by example and education.
This is a partial list of LGBT sports people from Australia who are openly gay.
Alyson Annan, a former field hockey player from Australia, earned a total number of 228 international caps for the Women’s National Team, in which she scored 166 goals. In 1999 she was voted the Best Female Hockey Player in the World. The following year, Annan led the Australian field hockey team to gold at the 2000 Summer Olympics. She retired after the 2000 Oympics from international competition and moved to the Netherlands where she played for HC Klein Zwitserland from The Hague. Retiring in 2003, Annan became the coach of Dutch league team HC Klein Zwitserland. In 2004 she was an assistant to Dutch Head Coach Marc Lammers for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. The Netherlands women field hockey teaam won silver.
Hayley Bateup is an Australian professional ironwoman, surf life saver and model. She has won The Coolangatta Gold, is one of the most challenging endurance races in surf sports, three times. The multi-disciplinary course combines swimming, running, board paddling and surf skiing.
Belle Brockhoff, an Australian snowboarder, represented Australia at the FIS Snowboarding World Championships and the Winter Olympics. She continues to competes in snowboard cross. She was a competitor in the 2013 FIS women’s snowboard cross, as well as the 2014 Winter Olympic snowboard cross.
Brockhoff came out as gay in August 2013. She is a supporter and endorser of the Principle 6 campaign, part of the Olympic protests of Russian anti-gay laws.
Natalie Cook, an Australian professional beach volleyball player and Olympic gold medallist is a well-known gay sports figure. She became the first Australian woman to compete at five Olympic Games. In 1996, the first time that beach volleyball was included as an Olympic sport, Cook partnered with Kerri Pottharst to represent Australia at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. They won a bronze medal. In the same year, the pair won a silver medal at the world championships, and came first in the World Tour Event in Japan. In the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, they dominated the competition, winning the gold medal. The pair were awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia after winning the gold in women’s beach volleyball. Cook found a new partner in Nicole Sanderson after Kerri Pottharst retired. They won a bronze medal at the 2003 Beach Volleyball World Championships in Rio de Janeiro, and by the end of the 2003 world tour, were ranked fourth in the world. They represented Australia at the 2004 Athens Olympics. They did not medal. For the 2008 Summer Olympics, Cook partnered with Tamsin Barnett. They finished fifth overall.
Casey Dellacqua is an Australian professional tennis player. The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) currently ranks Dellacqua World No. 92 in singles and World No. 5 in double. Dellacqua’s career highlights have all come in playing doubles. Dellacqua has won four WTA doubles titles and one grand slam mixed doubles title at the 2011 French Open.
Michelle Heyman is an Australian football player who currently plays in the National Women’s Soccer League for US side Western New York Flash. After the NWSL season is over, Heyman plans to play for Canberra United in the W-League in Australia, for the 2015–16 season. Heyman made her debut for the Australian national team in 2010. She was part of the 2014 AFC Women’s Asian Cup squad that finished the tournament as runners-up. Heyman has been chosen to take part in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Gus Johnston is a former field hockey goalkeeper from Australia, who publicly outed himself as gay in 2011. Since then he has become a Creative Director, filmmaker, and anti-homophobia campaigner.
Johnston is a Community Champion of the Australian anti-homophobia campaign No To Homophobia that was launched late in 2012. At the launch of the No To Homophobia campaign he stated “As a gay man, I’m ashamed to say I’ve been complicit in homophobic behaviour. For 20 years I played hockey at an elite level here in Victoria. I represented and even captained my State for many years, held a scholarship with the Victorian Institute of Sport and played over 200 State League One games for my club Essendon. But in that time, not once did I stand up for what I believed in. For who I am. When the people around me behaved in a homophobic way, I dipped my head. I said nothing. I fell silent.”
However, now Johnston is championing the cause, having become an ambassador for the initiative in 2012.
Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe won the gold medal after setting a new world record for the men’s 400m at the Sydney 2000 Olympics Games. He came out gay on television at the 2000 Olympic Games.