Navigating University Sport Environments as a Gay Man
We spoke to Callum Chapman, one of our TEAMBrookes Sports Scholars.
Callum is a member of the Men's 1st National League Hockey Team and an openly gay man about coming out to teammates, preconceptions of university sports teams and how we can all be a better ally to the LGBTQ+ community.
Did you find it easy to come out to your teammates in a university sports environment?
Initially within Brookes Hockey I was nervous to come out within my team and the wider club. Lad culture exists (especially within university sports) and can be very daunting for LGBTQ+ individuals. Everyone who is new into a team has anxieties upon joining, wanting to fit in and build friendships quickly. Sadly, sexuality adds another barrier to it. At the point of starting university, I had been out personally for over 4 years and it did feel like I was having to do this all again, but as soon as it was just out in the open and I saw the reaction I could immediately just be myself.
Did you feel welcomed into the environment?
Brookes Hockey, Oxford Hockey Club and wider Brookes sports have always been so accepting. Before my first away match (by this point I had come out to the team) I pulled the then captain, Worcester aside to ask if I could shower and he looked at me quizzically and said of course you can. Now to many this may not seem a lot, but previously I have not been able to shower with the team as It made others uncomfortable. Worcester and the rest of the team being so open just let me be myself and 100% aided my performance.
Did you have any preconceptions about what it would be like joining a university Hockey Club, and how did your experience match up to this?
I assumed that as open as everyone was that It would still be a very taboo unspoken topic, but I could not have been more wrong. Straight men, as much as they tend to not admit it, have a lot of questions around sex and sexuality that they want answering… well away day bus journeys frequently turned into a gay Q&A. Everyone was so open about it - it wasn’t taboo and I could just express myself and not feel separate from the team. They also quickly learnt that a gay helps with their girl problems ;)
How can university sports clubs and/or university sports departments be better allies to the LGBTQ+ Community?
Everyone must try to make the most open accepting environments; allowing people to be themselves. The use of slurs also must be challenged. If people regularly use slurs, those who are struggling themselves will be affected. Although I have banter with my own team about my sexuality, and personally this makes me laugh and I know it's from a place of love, we must challenge when it is used negatively. If players are more comfortable within the team and feel accepted they are much more likely to perform well!
Do you have any advice for athletes/students who are struggling to be confident in their sexuality?
Remember you are not alone. We have all been there, and the whole LGBTQ+ community are here supporting you. Sport is amazing and provides a release in an environment where your sexuality is irrelevant! If you continue to struggle within sports teams and clubs then there are also amazing LGBTQ+ inclusive clubs who will be there to support you.
Whether inside or outside sport, having to come out to a new group of people is always daunting. However, go in with an open mind, try to be yourself and by doing this, you will form closer relationships with your team and performance will Improve!