Labor senator Penny Wong has lashed out at homophobia in Australia’s sporting culture during a passionate address to the Senate.
The South Australian senator, the first Australian politician to be openly in a same-gender relationship, spoke out in support of Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe, who announced over the weekend that he was gay.
The five-time Olympic gold medallist opened up to British journalist Michael Parkinson on Sunday, saying he had wanted to come out for some time.
“I couldn't, I didn't feel as though I could,” he said.
“…I wanted to make my family proud, I wanted to make my nation proud. Part of me didn't know if Australia wanted its champion to be gay.
“People will criticise me. Some people won't like the idea, other people may applaud me for it, but it's me.”
His interview was met with mixed reactions and coincided with comments made by sports commentator Brian Taylor, who referred to an AFL player as a “big poofter”.
Addressing the Senate today, Senator Wong said she was “angered and upset” to hear Mr Taylor’s comments.
"It isn't a joke to be on the receiving end of a word like poofter," she said.
"It's no joke to be caught in the crossfire of prejudice and it's no joke to live with the fear of being rejected or vilified or persecuted because of who you are.
"We still hear homophobic insults and slurs bandied around as if they're acceptable, harmless just a bit of a laugh. Well it isn't a laugh to a young person growing up working out who they are surrounded by an atmosphere of hostility."
Senator Wong said Mr Taylor could learn from “the courage shown by Ian Thorpe”, saying comments such as his were the minority view in Australia.
“For every homophobe, there are hundreds of people – gay and straight – willing to stand up for what is right,” she said.