Featured events

7-9 September 2012
Brussels Games

Brussels Gay Sports will offer a weekend of fun and fairplay in the capital of Europe, with volleyball, swimming, badminton, and tennis, as well as fitness and hiking.

Learn more HERE.
26-28 October 2012
Bern, Switzerland

The success of the first edition of the QueergamesBern proved the need for an LGBT multisport event in Switzerland. This year will be even bigger, with badminton, bowling, running, walking, floorball.

Learn more HERE.
17-20 January 2013
Sin City Shootout
Las Vegas
The 7th Sin City Shootout will feature softball, ice hockey, tennis, wrestling, basketball, dodgeball, bodybuilding and basketball.

Learn more HERE.

13-16 June 2013
IGLFA Euro Cup
After this year's edition in Budapest at the EuroGames, the IGLFA Euro Cup heads to Dublin for 2013, hosted by the Dublin Devils and the Dublin Phoenix Tigers.

Learn more HERE.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Mardis du Grand Palais discussion

Last Tuesday we had the pleasure of attending a panel discussion on sport and homophobia at the Grand Palais, part of a series of discussions on sport tied to the World Fencing Championships currently taking place in the fabulous great hall of the Grand Palais. A significant portion of the discussion focused on LGBT sport, about which champion triathlete Carole Péon expressed her lack of familiarity. We invited her to join us in Cleveland+Akron in 2014 where triathlon will be a featured sport, or at other LGBT events, such as the TIP this spring, or Eurogames this summer.

The following is our translation of an article on the event by Judith Silbermann from Yagg.com (read the original HERE):

"The more a sport is a team sport and a men's sport, the more homophobic it is." So says Michel Royer, director of the excellent documentary Sports et homosexualités, c’est quoi le problème?, in what could be seen as a summary of the panel discussion organized 9 November in the Mardis du Grand Palais series.

Daniel Borillo, Bénédicte Mathieu, Carole Péon, Michel Royer (photo Yagg.com)
To answer the question "Does sport have a problem with homosexuality?", the organizers invited Royer, as well as legal scholar Daniel Borrillo, triathlete Carole Péon, silver at the European championships, and Yagg.com journalist Bénédicte Mathieu.

It's difficult to speak of this discussion as a debate, since the guests and spectators were generally in agreement on the points raised. As said by Carole Péon at the end of the event, it would have been better to invite homophobes to understand the source of their homophobia. The discussion was nonetheless instructive and far from superficial. Here are are few high points, followed by three questions to Carole Péon.

Daniel Borrillo:
"Sport is intimately tied to homosexuality, historically. This proximity perhaps explains homophobia."

Michel Royer:
"In football, sponsors and the players' entourage put pressure on gays not to come out."
"But there is progress: when Martina Navratilova was outed, she lost her sponsors, which was not the case when Amélie Mauresmo came out."
"[In the mind of many,] the counter-figure, the enemy of the athlete, is the homosexual."

Bénédicte Mathieu:
"The French national sports institute now included the fight against homophobia in the training of sports educators."

Daniel Borrillo:
"How is it that there are as many priests as elite athletes who have come out?"
"Things progress when people come out."

Michel Royer:
"LGBT sports clubs have an activist side. The publicly display the idea that homosexuals can be athletes."

Bénédicte Mathieu:
"Sport is a place for absolutes in feelings, for an absolute passion."

Michel Royer:
"Sport is the last place in society, perhaps with toys, where gender is manufactured."
"We also need to promote mixing of men and women in sport."

Carole Péon:
"In the sport of triathlon, we travel together, boys and girls and compete in the same events. After the world championships, which take place all year long, there's always a party where everyone it together, men and women, from around the world. The other athletes appreciate that my partner [Jennifer Harrison, herself a top triathlete] and I are comfortable with our homosexuality. They're more at ease because we aren't hiding our relationship."

Michel Royer:
"The more a sport is a team sport and a men's sport, the more homophobic it is. But even in sports where homosexuality is well accepted, there is a sort of law of silence. We have French national women's basketball teams where every player was gay, but where no one talks about it because the leadership fear that paretns would refuse to let their daughters join basketball clubs."


Why is this kind of discussion important?
In fact, I tend not to speak much with journalists, because I have this impression that we've entering my private life, which is a bit difficult. But I wanted to come this evening because of what happened to Yoann Lemaire. It's made me a bit angery, and I said, I'll go there, because I really think it's serious, and I can take it to heart.

As you said during the discussion, you never really experienced homophobia in your career, which you explain in part by the fact that you are in a very open and mixed sport. Before you reached elite sport, did things always go so well?
I think that when you're young, it's not necessarily easy. For me, things started to go better when I told my mother I was gay and she said "that's all?". From that point on, I really felt that I was becoming myself again, like when I was younger and hadn't realized what was happening. I have the feeling, as far as I'm concerned, that it came from me, and that I felt bad about myself because I had the impression of not doing something right. So was it because I was gay or because I was gay in in the closet and had the impression of lying that I felt so bad?

Now everyone knows, and it's never been a problem with anyone, which shows that the problem was with me, not them. There's perhaps a bit less homophobia than we think. Homophobia exists, it's clear, I would never say otherwise, but I think that if every homosexual had a little more self confidence, was happy and showed an image of a person who wants to reach out to others, we would gain some ground. Somethimes you have to work on yourself. When I ask my foreign friends, that's just what they tell me: they like me because I'm funny, I'm a nice person, I make them laugh, and not because I'm gay. That's all. Because I'm happy, I'm outgoing, and all that. When you're uncomfortable with yourself, people don't want to reach out to you, that's all. So that's something to deal with: there is a problem on both sides, on the side of the homophobes and the side of the homosexuals who need to gain self confidence, at least for some of us.

Is it liberating as an athlete to come out? When you no longer have this pressure to hide, are you stronger?
On this question, I'm in total agreement with what [French triathlete] Carl Blasco says in Michel Royer's film. When you hide something from others, you have the impression of lying every day to the people around you, and in the end, to yourself. I don't see how you can feel good about yourself in that case. The more I talked about it, the better I felt, and the better I performed as an athlete. That's not the only thing, of course, there are lots of other things needed to perform well, but it's clear that you have to feel liberated. To achieve a performance, as Carl, says, you have to be at 100% of your potential, physically and mentally. For me, I don't see how you can be at 100% of your potential if you aren't at peace with yourself. Of course there are many gay athletes who perform very well and who aren't out, so I think it depends greatly on each athlete's personality and profile. But for me, I can't lie, can't hide things, if I want to be at ease with myself and those around me.

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