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)|
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.
"Sport is intimately tied to homosexuality, historically. This proximity perhaps explains homophobia."
"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."
"The French national sports institute now included the fight against homophobia in the training of sports educators."
"How is it that there are as many priests as elite athletes who have come out?"
"Things progress when people come out."
"LGBT sports clubs have an activist side. The publicly display the idea that homosexuals can be athletes."
"Sport is a place for absolutes in feelings, for an absolute passion."
"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."
"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."
"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."
THREE QUESTIONS TO CAROLE PEON:
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.