No lisps, no Kylie, no glitter, no fashion. He likes surf clubs, rugby and rock. He was an outsider to the closed shop gay community that he saw as demanding conformance to their world – which didn’t interest him; he had no affinity with the stereotype, except of course he was attracted to blokes.
By today’s standards Andrew Purchas, better known as Fuzz, was late to his coming out party being in his late twenties. He was educated at an old money high school where pretty much everyone plays rugby, he just happened to be better at it than most and then followed the worn path to study economics and law, on the conveyer belt to professional life that the private schools produce.
In talking with Fuzz it is clear that at the time he felt he did not fit in either of his two worlds – both his birth right for being gay and for the family he was lucky enough to be born into. The traditional middle class family who are close and loving but with expectations of professional life and a family and where having a gay son or brother was incomprehensible. On the side of the rainbow was a gay world of men prancing up Oxford street in chaps and overtly sexualised, at least as from what he could gather from media reports. Fuzz was an outsider. Fuzz knew he liked men but did not think he was gay.
Fast forward twenty years and as well as being the founder of Australia’s first gay rugby union team, the Sydney Convicts, Fuzz is now the president of the Bingham Cup – a global gay rugby event being held in Sydney next year. The internationally renowned competition – of which the Convicts are the defending champions – was named after airline passenger Mark Bingham who died during the September 11 attacks while helping to overpower hijackers of a passenger jet likely headed for the White House or another Washington monument. According to Fuzz, Bingham, who was a gay rugby player, along with two other rugby players and a baseball player were heroes saving untold lives as the plane was ditched in a field; thwarting terrorists of their coveted prize of destroying symbols of capitalism and democracy.
As the GLBTI community enjoys growing representation and welcoming presence outside the city centres and into the suburbs and regions, Star Observer wanted to know why a gay rugby team was important, being it could be seen as exclusionary and perpetuating the cycle of difference. Fuzz says “I don’t look at as exclusionary but as a place for people to connect with the community” adding “some players have left the sport because they didn’t feel they would be accepted so clubs like the Convicts have created place for them to play rugby and be part of the community.”
Fuzz was at pains to point out the Convicts are a bunch of rugby players that are gay and not a “gay club” in what seemed an attempt to dispel that the rugby club is a place for footballer fantasies to be played out. “Rugby is pretty identifiable because there is an activity and so whether it is playing or coordinating, making it a distinction between other gay social groups like leather and fetish groups.”
“We are there for rugby and it’s not about physical or sexual attraction, there are a lot easier ways to pick up sex than to join the Convicts“ he added. “The Convicts provides the opportunity for like-minded guys to come together to do what they love – play rugby – and have a lot of fun doing it”
Fuzz is also the Vice President of ACON and sits on their audit committee, after being the chief security officer for Westpac. The position allows him to help oversee the way in which the charity spends money and it’s clear he is proud of how the country’s largest HIV/AIDS prevention organisation delivers for the community.
Now in his forties, Purchas is a vocal proponent of inclusion in sport but cautions about the pressure being placed on codes for players to ‘out’ themselves.
“I do think we have to be careful in seeking those people out as this is a very personal thing. So long as they are not being hypocrites, we should allow them the space to discover themselves. They may not cope with being a role model,” he said.
INFO: Bingham Cup will be in Australia from 27-31 August 2014. Visit here for more information.