TAG | CTV News
*Dusts off keyboard*
A quick reminder: as I go through these lapses in writing (from a lack of motivation, being too busy with school, and/or nothing especially newsworthy happening), be sure to follow updates on Facebook and Twitter as I will continue to forward what news I come across that doesn’t warrant a full blog post.
This interview given by Patrick Burke, however, definitely warrants whatever promotion I can give it with a full-fledged post.
The Burke family continues to be the leading force in changing the environment for gay athletes in hockey. The coming out of Brendan followed by Patrick and Brian assuming roles as vocal advocates after Brendan tragically died feels to me as what will be known as the catalyst leading to a gay player coming out while actively playing in the NHL.
The Canadian news company, CTV News, posted an excellent segment interviewing Patrick about his brother, continuing the cause, and the state of homophobia in hockey.
(The associated article highlights the points made by Patrick, but I think it is well-worth the time to watch the video of the interview.)
For my favorite bit of the interview, when asked why it would be so valuable for a hockey player (especially with how revered hockey players are in Canada) to come out, Patrick responds: “Athletes in general have such a strong stature and cross so many borders and boundaries in our culture. They’re one of the few groups that can be involved politically, and be involved in the music industry, and be on TV. And they can go into lots of other arenas that other people just can’t.”
Patrick continues: “In addition, they’re seen as masculine role models—masculine stereotypes for male athletes. And when there’s an unfortunate stereotype—that a lot of gay people are more feminine and less masculine—having a masculine athlete for a role model would be a huge step forward.”
While I would like to think that stereotypes would not be the source for perpetuating homophobia, I know the prevalent stereotype of an effeminate gay man fuels the prejudice. Homophobes see the effeminate gay man as a group easily quantifiable and excludable. It’s easy to create an ‘us versus them’ mentality because the masculine homophobe sees nothing in common with an effeminate gay man.
By coming out a masculine athlete sends two important messages: First, it challenges the stereotype of a gay man, making gay people more relatable to a larger number of people.
Second, and more importantly in my view, an athlete coming out gives closeted youth someone to look up to.
The reason I find the second message more important is because while the first message indirectly leads to a gradual shift towards full acceptance and equality for the gay community, the second message directly affects those most in need of a role model.
Going back to Patrick’s interview, following the message that coming out is important, the discussion then becomes: could an athlete come out?
Patrick cites a 2006 Sports Illustrated survey that found almost 80% of NHL players would support a gay teammate (the highest of the four major sports). Patrick describes the current locker room setting as having too much “casual homophobia,” including slurs being used too often.
Based on his delivery before going in a different direction (and I’m fully speculating here), it seemed as if he was trying to suggest that the “casual homophobia,” while unacceptable, is more rooted in habit than an indication of the actual culture of the sport. And accordingly, the habitual homophobia should not be interpreted as an obstacle for an athlete to come out.
Patrick closes talking about the awareness and education he does with the great organization GForce.