The Sydney Morning Herald has an interesting article on gay and lesbian athletes in Australia and their relative lack of visibility. The news peg for the story is the coming out of hockey player Gus Johnston on YouTube, but the story also does a good job of discussing the even deeper closet in which lesbian athletes in Australia reside.
There is a widespread assumption that many elite female athletes are lesbian – indeed, many people spoken to for this article identified significant numbers of current and former Australian sportswomen who are lesbian. But it is impossible to name one for fear of unintentionally outing her…
Sport is the last bastion of public life in Australia in which same-sex attraction is kept under wraps. The last closet in which it is safer to stay silent than speak up. Elite Australian athletes who are gay or lesbian mostly play it straight… The AFL is the only professional male sporting code in the Western world in which not a single current or past player has come out, according to Victoria University senior sports lecturer Caroline Symons.
Olympic cyclist Michelle Ferris, who is now a Gay Games Ambassador, said she wasn’t secretive about her sexuality during her career but never spoke about it publicly at the time.
”Whenever I was interviewed after a race during my career, the journalists always asked me about my performance, no one ever asked if I was gay. If that question had been asked, I would have answered it honestly. I’ve never been afraid of who I am. But when you’re talking about your race results, you’re not going to add on at the end, ‘By the way, I’m gay’.”
She agrees many journalists would feel such a question unnecessarily intrusive. The media does, however, often focus on a straight woman’s male partner and children (as well as her appearance and how she scrubs up in formal attire), reinforcing the notion that for a woman to gain attention she must be appealing to men.