Q: I am a straight male and a rugby player. One of my friends, who is gay, recently moved here and wants to join my team. I’d like for him to join, but I’m afraid it will be awkward. Should I tell him to hold off on joining?
A: You don’t mention anything specific that makes you worry, so it sounds like you might just be assuming your teammates would be weirded out by a gay dude in the scrum. If that’s the case, do I really need to tell you what assuming does to you and me? If your worries are based on the assumption that men who play contact sports are homophobic by default, the real question here might be about you. The ice has been broken about gay male athletes at the highest levels of sports, and several pro sports teams (including the Phillies) even made videos for the It Gets Better project.
But maybe you’re not assuming. If “no homo” or casual slurs get thrown around and you get the vibe that your friend would be a target, be open with him about it. If he’d rather not deal with it, let him know about the Philadelphia Gryphons, a well-established rugby team with a gay lean — if he just moved here, he might not be aware of them, and might see a team that makes it easy to meet people in the gay community as a bonus.
But if your friend specifically wants to join your team and you have reason to suspect that your teammates are homophobic, then put yourself out there for him. With your friend’s permission, broach the topic with your teammates. You may get more of an open discourse than you expect; use it to give your friend as much insight as you can into the situation. Whatever his decision, be supportive. He’s trusting you, so be a team player and throw a little support back in his direction.
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