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I’ve found many case examples of gay slurs being used by sports people, to unsettle an opponent. This whole homophobic attitude gives me an advantage over my straight counterparts. If they see being gay as the lowest common denominator, and the weakest link, then there is not a single slur that one of my opponents can use to undermine me.
In August 2001 Hasim Rahman, accused Lennox Lewis of “acting gay”. Rahman picked up on Lennox’s “special” relationship with his mother as a sign of his sexuality, as a way of attempting to undermine his opponent.
Lennox’s sexuality is not the issue here, that is his own business – and not for us to speculate. The words “acting gay” were used by Rahman as he could think of nothing worse, as in his eyes gay sportsman are the lowest, least skilled and weakest.
I look at this whole concept from another angle and see my sexuality as an advantage when competing. The fact that I’m totally at ease with being a “fully paid up member of the club” puts me in the driving seat. Opponents probably realise that by using homophobic terms they’re only going to improve my performance, by adding fuel to the fire.
I suppose that opponents could attack me for being straight, and see if that works. The sight of a gay-boy ripping 250-kilo of the floor must be a little mind altering for my straight peers. Even if they have used homophobic comments, they certainly have not to my face.
My belief is that Recognition is everything for gay athletes and that is attained through earning respect. The Recognition of gay sportsmen by governing bodies, competitors and supporters is essential for the future acceptance of gay men in sport.
My chosen way to earning the respect of my sport is through performance. Many of you will be questioning my view already and think I’m only referring to elite performance and then comparing this views to the ethics of Gay Games already discussed.
By adding a further line to the statement of Inclusion, Participation and Pursuit of Personal Best, “Whatever level that maybe”, takes into account both elite and recreational sports people and recognises that both exist in the gay community.
My point is that by participating and taking sport seriously, gay people earn the respect of their peers. My experience in Power lifting is nothing but positive. I found that the amount of weight that I was lifting at the start was not important to the people around me.
The fact that I was taking the sport seriously and participating in a meaningful way was enough to trigger the process of acceptance. It’s time that more elite gay sports people operated openly, and the sports world accepted that gay people are competing at all levels of sport.
It is a great shame that in Britain, I’m the only openly gay athlete operating in first-class sport. For now, I’m happy to shoulder that responsibility – at least until more young gay athletes in this country, feel confident and supported enough to follow my lead.