The Queer Community in Sports and their Representation in Pop Culture — Glii
In 1994, veteran tennis player and former World №1 Martina Navratilova caused a stir in the sporting world after her announcement that she was gay. Since then, more and more homosexual athletes have shared their sexual orientation with the public.
In addition to this, several events specifically geared toward homosexual athletes have since been founded including the Bingham Cup (2009).
Despite efforts to promote open acceptance, LGBTQ+ athletes still face heterosexist discrimination to this day in some sports communities.
For example, there is evidence of a wide-ranging Russian government-backed program designed to institutionalize discrimination against these individuals within the country’s sports industry by using physical as well as emotional violence as means of intimidation.
In this blog, we shall look at the history of queer identity, queerness in sports, and its influence on pop culture.
The LGBTQ Community in Sports: An Introduction
According to the Columbia Journalism Review, the word “queer” dates back to the 16th century, when it was first used in the English language to indicate something unusual.
The adjective began to be applied to homosexuals in the early twentieth century, typically in a pejorative manner.
Webster’s Dictionary cites “queer” as slang meaning gay in the 1965 edition, although it doesn’t clarify the connotation (keep in mind, that the American Psychiatric Association listed homosexuality as a mental illness until 1973).
It’s crucial to recall the word’s unpleasant past when examining its development, says Jason Rafferty, an LGBTQ scholar at Brown University.
He believes that there has to be a lot of respect for the fact that the phrase may affect individuals of various generations in very different ways.
In addition to that, he said Queer may hold a lot of pain for someone who came up at a period when we didn’t have as much in terms of rights, acknowledgement, and public respect.
Megan Duthart is well-versed in the past. She is a British-born rower from Washington State who came out in high school and identifies as gay alongside her friends. Her parents, however, believe she is bisexual. She claims they didn’t grow up in the most accepting circumstances and link the word “queer” with mockery, saying something along the lines — of “Oh my God, the queers are on their way.”
The world of Sports has always been very gendered. The binary in sports has hindered the way of people from multiple sections of society come and participate in sports. Here is a queer sportsperson who has been smashing the binary and doing it in style.
Schuyler Bailar: An Inspiration
Schuyler Bailar who prefers his pronouns like he/him/his, and is an Athlete, is an inspiration and motivation for everyone to want to fight this gendered space of Sports. His Instagram bio reads “1st trans D1 NCAA men’s athlete”. Schuyler’s difficult decision to transition while risking the possibility of being an NCAA champion was remarkable and historic. Through his Instagram channel, he focuses on multiple facets of queerness to spread awareness. He is passionate about how one should be acceptable toward trans children and the practice that is prevalent in our world.
He also discusses how some of us are born into the wrong body and it then becomes a painful process of going through transitions or forcibly accepting ourselves due to societal pressure. He frequently does gender sensitization, through talks and posts, and videos.
For example, I came across this post where he was discussing the issue of menstruation and how “menstruation does not have a gender”. A comment related to menstruation, from his channel, looked something like this- “they are women’s issues AND they are also more than that. Not all women menstruate, and not all who menstruate are women. Hence the need to de-gender.” He also discusses how patriarchal structures are sometimes conformed by women only. He writes, “Excluding trans girls from sports hurts all girls”.
Schuyler Bailar also discusses how our mentality is shaped in a way that the moment a heteronormative cis person with a regressive mentality sees a trans person, they start either blaming or shaming them for something or hurting them or looking down upon them. For example, a common heteronormative concern is cis men pretending to be women to win. In that case, the person is afraid of cis men and not trans women. But that person would feel like the fault lies with trans women. This is nothing but an attempt to negate reality.
Schuyler Bailar raises pertinent questions and urges all audiences to consider this and make this world a better place for queer people who are already facing health issues- both physical and mental because of this appalling outlook of our society concerning queer people. They are facing discrimination from all strata of society.
Popular Culture references related to Sports and Queerness
Over the years, the media has portrayed the queer community in many different ways. Gay characters have always been around but they have been mostly represented as the comic relief. Some shows have tried to depict the story of the LGBTQ community in a positive light in an attempt to break the gender binary. These are some examples where popular culture has represented the queer community in sports.
Based on the true tale of Muay Thai boxer Parinya Charoenphol (Asanee Suwan), who had a sex change procedure to become a woman. The film follows her journey from a young boy who enjoys wearing lipstick and flowers to her sensational career as a kickboxer — whose speciality is ancient Muay Thai boxing (moves she can execute expertly and gracefully) — to finally confronting her own sexual identity, which leads to her sex change op.
This Queer Sport & Trans biography is extremely compelling, with breathtaking graphics that bring Parinya Charoenphol’s tale to life onscreen. It’s rich, emotive, and tear-jerking — it’s simply amazing! Based on the true tale of Muay Thai boxer Parinya Charoenphol (Asanee Suwan), who had a sex change procedure to become a woman.
The film follows her journey from a young boy who enjoys wearing lipstick and flowers to her sensational career as a kickboxer — whose speciality is ancient Muay Thai boxing (moves she can execute expertly and gracefully) — to finally confronting her own sexual identity, which leads to her sex change op. This Queer Sport & Trans biography is extremely compelling, with breath-taking graphics that bring Parinya Charoenphol’s tale to life onscreen. It’s rich, emotive, and tear-jerking — it’s simply amazing! Director/Writer Ekachai Uekrongtham brings us to new depths with his flashback/interview approach.
A Hindi language film dealing with serious gender questions which we see missing from mainstream media.
While it is difficult to put this film into a specific kind of queer question, it does raise a serious gender question that tackles and points out how sports are a space that entertains gender binary as well as problematic notions of masculinity and femininity.
It shows how in sports the testosterone levels of women become some kind of a hindrance- a huge hindrance- in their pursuit of their careers in sports.
Rashmi, an Indian woman, with higher testosterone levels than is usually found in women is challenged by the authoritative figure of society and her wish to pursue her career in sports was also challenged. This movie deals with her fight, her story- the story of all women in a certain way, breaking all kinds of preconceived notions of womanhood and imposing patriarchal and heteronormative and misogynist structures of women in society.
Just in order to mention for mentioning’s sake- While women do have lower testosterone levels than males on average, a study of 2,000 Olympic competitors found that 4.7 percent of female athletes had testosterone levels in the usual male range, while 16.5 percent of male athletes had testosterone levels below the typical male range.
As a result, testosterone levels cannot be used as a gender indicator. Nevertheless, gender, not just because of these cases of exceptions- gender should never be a measure for the pursuit of anything.
When Leon (Aaron Altaras), a new striker, joins the soccer squad, there is a ripple of unease in the locker room. Sharing an apartment with Mario (Max Hubacher), a fierce opponent, lays the stage for an unexpected love affair, but homosexual love in this macho society is not easy. Mario refuses or is unable to recognize the ramifications of what is occurring. However, not everyone is fooled by fake girlfriends.
“Mario” has long been on the must-see list of Queer flicks of a lot of people. I wish I had seen this queer sports film years ago when I didn’t have to focus on subtitles.
Director and Co-Writer Marcel Gisler takes us on an emotional trip into the world of homophobia in sports groups, using great cinematography and a good eye for editing.
Sadly, the tale is unfortunately too typical today, since openly homosexual sportsmen are still not completely accepted in professional sports. However, the great cast’s evocative performance elicits a wide spectrum of emotions that is just breathtaking to see. “Mario” is a must-see for everyone who hasn’t seen it yet.
Zach (Trevor Wright) spends his days at a dead-end job and helping his needy sister (Tina Holmes) care for her son after being forced to give up his hopes of attending art school. He surfs, sketches, and hangs out with his best buddy, Gabe (Ross Thomas), who lives on the wealthier side of town, in his spare time. Shaun (Brad Rowe), Gabe’s elder brother, returns home and is intrigued by Zach’s selflessness and skill. Zach falls in love with Shaun while trying to balance his desires with his family’s necessities.
I adored Shelter when I first saw it years ago! Zach and Shaun are two unusual homosexual men who are more concerned with surfing and living than with the current fashion or other stereotyped fads. Zach had no idea his sexuality is different until he hung out with Shaun and his suppressed impulses come to the surface. Their initial kiss is comfortable and natural, but when Zach truly accepts his desire for Shaun, there is a raw intensity. Both performers (both straight) do an excellent job of bringing their characters to life, and there’s some cool surfing as well! Zach’s sister and nephew are similarly raw; the struggles of being poor and striving contrast with Shaun’s more privileged childhood. The soundtrack is beyond amazing. Get a copy of “Shelter” if you haven’t already.
At the End
We hope you enjoyed this article about how the world of sports is changing and how queer identity is becoming more accepted in sports and the world of physical fitness. If you want to learn more about how to be an LGBTQ+ ally, read more from our blog.