Sports World Opens the Closet

An evolution towards inclusion 

From the Pride Issue

Sports is a lens for cultural transitions, political movements and social trends, which include those of the LGBTQ+ community. This past year waves among the sports world have been made to recognize the difficulties and existences of this demographic-particularly in hyper masculine heteronormative sports- and celebrate those who have stepped forward to fight for further inclusion. Although not fully complete because it still appears a groundbreaking story when a male football or basketball player such as Jason Collins identifies as homosexual, athletics like any social facet independent from religion is recognizing the importance of equity and unimportance of who you love when it comes to playing a game. The rapid speed of this movement can be attributed to some courageous organizations and athletes who have unapologetically shared their gender/sexual orientation story and those who have presented themselves as allies.

Caitlyn Jenner, former Olympic icon revealed her newly claimed gender to the world via the front cover of Vanity Fair on June 30th, 2015. Although speculation of a transition was unethically made by many media outlets throughout the year, nothing was confirmed until the bio released detailing her turbulent effort to transition beginning in the eighties. Once the image of traditional masculinity, identified as the greatest athlete in the world and a father, Jenner’s courage to live as her true self while excusing the arbitrary labels and an unforgiving, judgmental society was rewarded by the Arthur Ashe Courage award at the Espy’s. 

This past year was also marked by some significant kisses that proved Western culture is no longer dismissing the prevalence of homosexuality among the mainstream. The most passionate and celebratory is that between Abby Wombach and her wife after the Fifa World cup win against Japan. Not only was the kiss completely romantic, rivalling that of Spider Man and Mary Jane it was televised across the United States and Canada and positively (as it should be) responded to by fans. Another noteworthy smooch, recently took place at a LA Kings, Toronto Maple Leafs game. Traditionally when a kiss cam among fans confronts two males the scenario is turned into a joke, however when the screen featured couple Brad Parr and Andrew Evans the two locked lips making them the first ever same-sex couple to do so on NHL kiss cam. As expected the crowd roared in celebration. 

On January 24, 2016 the Edmonton Oilers became the first NHL team to feature pride tape on their sticks. It was used at their annual skills competition at Rexall place. The Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation made a donation to become a founding member in Pride Tape. The purpose of the rainbow coloured tape according to Dr. Kristopher Wells at the University of Alberta, “We’re hoping that Pride Tape will be (an) active and tangible, visible source of support (for) LGBTQ youth to know that they’re welcome, they’re fully included and they can feel safe playing hockey no matter what level. (Global News)” Members of the hockey community including Flames president Brian Burke whose passed son Brendan identified as gay are also standing behind this initiative of inclusiveness in the locker room and on the ice.

It appears that the sports community is finally moving in a direction that is inclusive of same sex love, one recognition of PDA at a time. However some significant efforts can still be made by the IOC, such as refusal to host the Olympics in LGBTQ discriminatory countries and proper inclusion of transgender athletes if we desire a world completely accepting of all people including athletes.