It’s another year of college sports. We’ll again be rooting for our favorite teams and cheering on our favorite athletes. But consider this: How would you feel if your fellow teammate or admired athlete came out as gay?
Some might react negatively. The realm of men’s sports has traditionally been dominated by a culture of masculinity and heterosexuality. To be a successful athlete, one had to be masculine and straight, and the stereotyped effeminate gay man has no place in sports. The mere existence of gay athletes would threaten this desired perception.
These are the reasons why most sociologists have considered sports to be a homophobic institution. But with our culture’s homophobia on the decline, and the NCAA adding sexual orientation to its principle of nondiscrimination in 2000, are college sports still homophobic?
To answer this question, sociologist Eric Anderson interviewed 26 gay male college athletes from 2008 to 2010. Surprisingly, none of the athletes feared harassment after coming out. Instead, they felt included and able to discuss their sexuality openly.
Anderson theorizes that the previous “hegemonic masculinity” is now being replaced by an “inclusive masculinity” which embraces gay and straight. However, he concedes that his small sample consisted of white, middle-class men who probably came out based on their environment. This theory might not be generalizable to other demographics or locations.