• Alex Blackwell bats during the women's Twenty20 match against India at Adelaide Oval on January 26, 2016 in Adelaide, Australia. (Getty Images)
In the lead-up to the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, we chat to some of Australia’s out women in sport about what it means to be open about your sexuality as an elite athlete.
By
Alex Blackwell, Danielle Warby

Source:
Zela
1 Mar 2016 - 7:30 PM  UPDATED 3 Mar 2016 - 3:24 PM

Shortly after throwing support behind Athlete Ally (something I was encouraged to get involved with by Hudson Taylor and David Pocock) it became obvious to me that I should be more vocal about my own sexuality.

How can I be trying to stamp out homophobia in sport and be attempting to make sport a safer place for gay athletes while I'm not totally upfront about being a gay athlete myself?

I wasn't hiding who I was to those around me, I just never took the opportunity to be really upfront about it in the media. I didn't chose to focus on that part of my life in the media as it wasn't the most important thing about me and my ability to play good cricket.

Being an Athlete Ally

My role as an Athlete Ally is to live by the pledge I made, which is:

I pledge to lead my athletic community to respect and welcome all persons, regardless of their perceived or actual sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

Beginning right now, I will do my part to promote the best of athletics by making all players feel respected on and off the field.

It's all about helping to eradicate homophobia in sport and encouraging others to do the same.

The most powerful change occurs when straight allies stand up for their gay teammates or when they simply speak up when homophobic attitudes are encountered in their own sporting community.

Small acts of allyship mean a great deal to those experiencing homophobia and to those who remain in the closet.

LGBTI inclusion and visibility

We need more visibility regarding LGBTI inclusion. This comes in many forms. Cricket Australia showed visibility regarding LGBTI inclusion by signing the Anti-homophobia in sport framework in 2014 alongside the major football codes in Australia.

I would like to see even greater visibility through perhaps pride rounds and having more straight allies within my sport standing up to be vocal around stamping out homophobia.

David Pocock is a great example for this type of visibility.

Your imaginary boyfriend David Pocock totally supports women in sport
What a man what a man what a man what a women's sport fan.

Misguided stereotypes create barriers to both men and women coming out

Male athletes get more coverage in the media generally compared to female athletes. So I think there is greater interest because of the greater public awareness of male athletes. More importantly there continues to be misguided stereotypes held by the public that contribute to the imbalance in the attention generated by male versus female athlete coming out stories. All women who play sport are gay aren't they?! Given this commonly held misconception the idea of a female athlete coming out is not seen as a big news story.

There are no gay male footballers or cricketers right?! There seems to still be more barriers when it comes to men being willing to come out to their teammates or to the public. With so few out male athletes you can understand why a coming out story would grab the headlines.

With time hopefully no coming out story is news worthy.

It's important for there to be out gay sportswomen

I think it's extremely important to be honest about who you are and to be brave and be yourself in the public eye. By being silent about your sexuality you are only buying into the idea that there is something wrong with being a gay person. Being an openly gay sportswoman you are showing everyone, particularly young people, that it's ok to be yourself.

The perception that there are a lot of lesbians in sport affects straight and gay athletes

Straight athletes can sometimes go to extra lengths to show they are not gay. They project a very feminine look deliberately, show off boyfriends, choose to ignore homophobic behaviour or participate in it. This can create some segregation within a team and this sort of behaviour does not help to create a welcoming and safe environment for all.

Gay athletes choose to stay in the closet as they do not want to feed the perception.

Sports have tended to focus on feminine attributes when promoting their female teams perhaps to compensate for this public perception. I wonder if this encourages some female athletes to mould themselves on a feminine prototype so they have a better chance to be promoted.

Media can be implicit in keeping athletes in the closet

At times I've noticed there is a heteronormative approach when athlete's partners are discussed in the media. Why are the terms WAGS used for male teams and HABS used for female teams when we are talking about athlete's partners?

It seems like there is an ease by which straight couples are discussed in the media but more of an avoidance of the topic when an athlete has a same-sex partner. During the tennis do we get to hear equally about Casey Dellacqua's partner as compared to a tennis player who is straight?

I'm pleased to say that at the most recent Allan Border medal Lynsey and I were correctly referred to as a married couple. Having Cricket Australia proudly show us as a couple in a photo on their website made me feel included and is a small but strong example of action being taken to become a more LGBTI inclusive sport.  The feedback on social media about this correctly captioned photo was really positive.