I was given another ‘hot’ lead last night, from a very reliable source of course, that we will hear from an AFL player this week who has chosen to declare his homosexuality. The headlines on the daily papers will blast “Insert Name Here comes out” “Football fraternity tickled pink” or something equally as riveting and insulting.
I want to pen a note to that football player, or indeed, those football players. A few of them might just need to do it together if they are to survive the insane media onslaught that will come. This is not just the mainstream media – there are some rainbow coloured seagulls circling this issue like its a bag of hot chips left unattended. These are people I know, part of the LGBT media who love to jump on a story that we can legitimately claim. Then there will be the unnecessary and potentially damaging media circus, where this person will be the talking head within the sport for every issue that pertains to the community. Thats too much pressure for one person.
I’d love a tenner for every time I have hard that an AFL player is on the cusp – this is my third very reliable source in the past month. Rumour has abounded since someone first strapped on a pair of boots. As old as our game is, so are the rumours.
The note reads:
Dear (insert name here). The step you have taken today is both brave and courageous and, at the same time, maybe foolhardy. There are few things in football left to be the first at, and today you have claimed one of the last seats on the pew of AFL firsts. You have shown that you trust yourself, and your playing fraternity to manage this situation with respect. I congratulate that trust.
I want to apologise in advance for the behaviour of both the mainstream media and the LGBT community, among the many people who will offend you during the next few weeks and months. The mainstream media will pry into your past and ask why you dated this woman, or brought that young lady to the Brownlow. And then they’ll ask who the beau will be on your arm at this years medal count.
They will ask inappropriate questions, and although they mean well, there is no doubt they will cock something up. Not all of them will – some will think they are being respectful and helping you declare your honesty, but, rest assured, they will cock up. Some ratbag on commercial radio will say something so insensitively stupid, and you will feel hurt after that – it will pass. You will be okay.
Our own community will try and gobble you up in so many ways that you won’t know which way to turn. They are ruthless. I look back to when Daniel Kowalski, Matthew Mitcham, Ian Thorpe and Magda Szubanski came out. My media and my community were so desperate to have a scoop, and are so ravenously searching for relevance, that they will be more insensitive than most. Many lack integrity or journalistic ethics, regardless of how self important they seem. Please rest assured that it is more about them than you. And not be scared to say no.
Surround yourself with good people. People who you trust and respect – who will have your back, who will shield you and protect from those most ravenous. Chat with a gay friend or family member – we all have one somewhere. They can be the most important ally you can have.
Don’t read the newspapers for a few days Thankfully, the news cycle is very short and there will be someone else on the front page tomorrow. Be patient – it will pass and life becomes all rather normal very quickly. Talk to others about your mental health – humans are fragile and sometimes when we expect we will be most resilient, we are not.
Always, always remember what you have achieved – before the public demanded to know of your most intimate life. Thousands of young men and women dream every year of making it to the big stage and many of them don’t. Be proud – not of your sexuality but of who you are and what you have done to date. You did make it, you earned your spot in the AFL probably under more difficult circumstances than others.
Be private as much as possible. Your personal life will be under scrutiny and media from all corners will try and undermine that. There are ways to maintain privacy when it comes to your sex life.. be guarded. Be wary of star fuckers.. there lurk behind every grinder profile or offer of a drink at the bar. There are plenty who will want your name written in to the notch on their bedpost – you will become just another conquest and offer some bragging rites. They are like vultures waiting for an animal to die so they can start on the process of devouring the carcass. Trust your instincts,
Finally, be proud. Applaud your bravery and courage but also respect your own integrity. What is to come is going to be difficult for a short while. In the end, who you love and how you love them is a matter that belongs entirely, selflessly and ferociously your own. Now is the time to guard that more than ever.