AS the national spokesperson of PFLAG, we are proud to support the Bingham Cup.
PFLAG is a peer support group that supports family and friends when loved ones come out. We provide individual support, written information and group meetings. We advocate for equality for our sons and daughters plus provide general community education to make it a better and safer world for our gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans* (LGBT) sons and daughters. The organisation has contacts and groups in most states of Australia.
Homophobia is a form of bullying that needs to be named, not bundled into the policy under the guise of “treating everyone with dignity and respect”. To a homophobe, the terms in those sorts of policies don’t always apply and to many it’s still the norm to call someone a “poofter”.
The AFL is naming racism as a form of abuse and this will trickle down to all codes of football. This also needs to happen when it comes to homophobia in sport.
I congratulate Australian Rugby Union (ARU) for being very supportive of the Bingham Cup as it shows they are trying hard to combat homophobia. However, all codes need to come on board and call out this form of abuse when it happens, and let spectators clearly know that this is no longer permitted or accepted by the sporting code, the team playing on the day, nor the venue. Unfortunately, homophobic abuse and language in sport is hurtful and insulting. Saying “it was just a joke” or “didn’t mean to offend” is no excuse, because ultimately those very words are designed to offend or hurt, and they are anything but a compliment. This is why parents of PFLAG believe that its time that all sporting teams and venues “stepped up to the plate” to actively address homophobia in sports.
The great Anti Homophobia and Inclusion Framework was officially launched by organisers of Bingham Cup Sydney in April and attended — and signed — by the heads of Australia’s five major sporting codes: AFL, NRL, ARU, Football Federation Australia and Cricket Australia. I truly believe that many clubs are very supportive of LGBT athletes, but they all need to be clear and publicly show that they don’t support homophobia of any kind and that they are inclusive of team members, without “outing” any individual. This can all be easily achieved by education and raising public awareness.
As the mother of a gay son, the Bingham Cup is personal. My son James played with the Sydney Convicts and it was just heart warming to watch him with a team of strong young men all able to be themselves and free from any stigma or judgement. Additionally, I loved watching the camaraderie that some mainstream football teams wished for. This to me is what team sport is all about.
All PFLAG parents want their sons and daughters to be free to be themselves but there are times when homophobia, internal or otherwise, can cause problems. And, sporting events and clubs can create circumstances where many choose to remain in the closet, even if they are out to family and good friends. However, what is so good is that with the Bingham Cup, this is not one of these times. Gay men — and women — are proud to be gay.
Achieving this in mainstream sport doesn’t have to be difficult. It is simply a matter of letting it be known over the public address system and flashed up on the digital board between quarters and half times that this behaviour is no longer accepted. The spectators need to be made aware there will be consequences for bad behaviour that can cause an individual to be removed from the stadium or grounds.
Homophobia not only affects the LGBT person but their families as well. Homophobia harms people emotionally and physically in so many ways. Homophobia is already being addressed in workplaces and schools, so it’s time that it is now firmly and openly addressed in sport.
The Bingham Cup promotes the fact that gay men love to play team sport and are good at it. The teams involved provide a safe place (except for sporting injuries) for gay men who love to play rugby union. This is a time to celebrate being gay, being athletic and being out and proud.
The high profile of this event helps to remove the stereotypes and stigma that uninformed people hold towards LGBT people. The Bingham Cup is not only a positive role model for LGBT people who are uncertain about playing sport and competing, but it is also a very positive competition that shows mainstream society that players can be rough, tough and excellent athletes in any chosen sport.
PFLAG parents are honoured to be supporters of the Bingham Cup and we wish all of the teams well in their goal to honour the memory of Mark Bingham by competing in what it a highlight event on the LGBT calendar.
Shelley Argent is the National Spokesperson of PFLAG Australia.
Details: visit pflagbrisbane.org.au or call the Helpline on 0400 767 832
**This article first appeared in the new September issue of the Star Observer, which is currently available in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Canberra. Click here to find out where you can grab your free copy or click here to read the magazine in digital flip-book format.