AN American mother, who has confessed she once had “stupid attitudes,” when it came to homosexuality, has talked of the thrill at having the world cup of gay rugby named after her son.
The Bingham Cup, which begins in Sydney next week, is named in tribute to Alice Hoagland’s rugby-playing son Mark Bingham (both of them pictured above), who died on board one of the hijacked aeroplanes on September 11, 2001.
Hoagland said Bingham was 21 when he told her he was gay.
“As an uneducated middle class white American mother it was a real shock when my son came out,” she said.
“I believed in ridiculous stereotypes [and] it forced me to re-examine some of those very stupid attitudes I had at that time.”
Her son’s announcement changed those attitudes.
“I want every LGBT young man and woman to be able to stand proud and unapologetically announce to the world, yes, I’m a lesbian, yes I’m a gay man, yes I’m bisexual, yes I’m transgendered, and I expect you to respect me and offer me all the same affections and love and opportunities you would offer me if I was straight,” Hoagland said.
The popularity of rugby in the LGBTI community, she says, is proof lazy perceptions of gay men are wrong.
“Fortitude, strength, team play and coordination are not the private domain of straight people,” Bingham’s mother said.
“The fact that gay men get out there and play rugby, get hurt and become victorious flies in the face of the stereotype that gay men are somehow weaker or morally unprepared to face a difficult physical task… and that is one reason why I just love the idea of the Bingham Cup.”
The tournament’s name is a particular honour.
“I was thrilled when I was first told the Cup was being named after Mark,” Hoagland said.
“[It] means people remember him for his sacrifice, and remember the heroism of that small group of men aboard that United Airlines flight.
“Sexual orientation didn’t matter, what mattered was character, strength and courage.”
Bingham – also a keen filmmaker – would be pleased, she added, at his footage being used in a documentary.
“He’d be glad he’d recorded so much on film and usable video so skilled filmmakers could arrange it, as they have, into a remarkable lively story of his crazy life,” Hoagland said.
“It’s a coming-of-age story, and a testament to the trials of growing up an athlete, a fraternity brother and a gay man.”
Hoagland, who has visited Australia several times, both on holiday with her family and her through her former role as a flight attendant, said the country was one of her favourite places and that “Mark loved the Aussie way of life”.
Sydney is her sixth Bingham Cup having previously travelled the world to every tournament since it was named after her son in 2002. She said that the players “treat me like a mom and I’m so proud of them”.
However, the fact her son isn’t with her looms large.
“It’s heartbreaking to have lost my son but it is wonderful to have gained so many friends,” she said.
“I’ve lost a son but gained a huge family.”
The Rugby Player is on ABC2 tonight at 8.30pm