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Clyde Rathbone: 'I'm in love with a gay man'

The Brumbies' Clyde Rathbone.

The Brumbies' Clyde Rathbone. Photo: Melissa Adams

I'm in love with a gay man.

It's a bromance born out of deep respect and admiration for a kindred spirit. My friend is as close to a brother as a person not born of the same mother can be. He's one of the bravest people I know. And for most of his life he carried the burden of his sexuality like an anchor around his neck.

In writing this piece, I spoke with my friend (I’ll call him John) about his experience as a gay man in a professional sporting environment.

This is a small insight into his story.

“For as long as I can remember, I have known that I am gay. I didn't accept it until my late teens and for a long time I would punish myself for certain thoughts in an attempt to condition myself out of my ‘gayness’.

"Things became increasingly difficult for me because I knew I was gay, and after various ridiculous attempts to change this - it wasn't going away. At the same time I was passionate about excelling in my sport. The two stereotypes of 'gay' and ‘professional athlete' caused me a lot of internal conflict.”

When I think about the stigma reserved for the gay community, it is easy to understand why John struggled as much as he did. Gay people aren't simply different, they are different in a way that makes them less moral. And what's more, they made the ''lifestyle choice'' to be this way, haven’t you heard?

When a culture relentlessly reinforces a particular narrative it becomes increasingly difficult to challenge it. And professional sport is often a deeply homophobic environment.

Words such as “faggot” and “homo” are not accepted in most workplaces, but in the testosterone-driven world of men’s sport, they remain commonplace.

John continued: “Aged 18 I became involved in a professional sport. This was my dream come true, and nothing was going to stop me making the most of the opportunity. I deliberated at length at the time and decided that to achieve my goals it was important to be judged for what I did, and not what I was. So I decided to keep being gay a secret. This decision turned into a slow, self-imposed torture.

"I have spent my life terrified that ‘coming out’ to my friends would break their trust. I worry that they will think I’m a fraud for lying to them for so long. And I couldn't live knowing that the people closest to me didn't think I was a genuine person. The people who know me think I’m a truthful and honest individual. This is important to me and it’s a conflict I am still dealing with.”

Suffering of this kind is desperately sad, and a reminder that while attitudes towards homosexuality are improving, many gay people remain deeply affected by societies that define them by their sexuality.

John: “I didn't tell anyone that I was gay until my mid-20s - not my family, not my friends, absolutely no one. I eventually came out to some people close to me who I trust. This decision made itself, in that I hit rock bottom in the weeks leading up to my decision to talk. I was a wreck. I would spend most of my personal time in tears, my thoughts were becoming dangerous to my well-being and I knew if I didn't speak up my life was at risk.”

I asked John his opinion about how sport can address homophobia.

John: “Addressing this situation in professional sport is very difficult. Lots of things are written, lots of things are said, and there are plenty of good intentions shown by athletes, administrators and fans alike."

This week in Sydney the main football codes as well as Cricket Australia united in their commitment to rid sport of homophobia. New anti-homophobia and inclusion frameworks will be implemented by the end of August.

John: "It is important to express that being gay is not a disease, that gay athletes will be accepted in sport. I applaud this work. But it’s not enough to persuade all gay athletes that it is OK to come out.

"I feel that addressing the vocabulary we use is important, but I think this addresses the problem in a very superficial way. I don’t want people not to say what they think, I want them to realise how ignorant their words are and recognise the harm that these words can do.

"We have to continue to educate people. Sporting organisations can create environments that nurture curiosity and encourage rational thought. I think a byproduct of changing the way we think leads to a willingness to embrace differences in people.”

John had this to say about coming out to his friends and family:

John: “Talking about this has been the most freeing decision I have made and I feel grateful to have had people in my life who I am comfortable talking to - some people don't have this luxury.

"My world changed when I spoke to people. In my mind over 20-odd years I grew my sexuality into a world-ending problem - the truth is that it isn't, and speaking with people close to me gave me a rational perspective again.

"We should not avoid this conversation, it is a conversation that must be had.”


  • Can the bigots who hide behind the Bible and cite religious beliefs as a reason to exclude and demean gay and lesbian people not realise the hurt they cause?

    Date and time
    April 11, 2014, 1:18PM
    • Unfortunately, it's not just religious bigots causing the pain. Many young people call their friends "gay" in a friendly, derogatory way as a joke. It's not a joke. Let's all gently remind everyone who says this that they may be hurting people by using the word in this way. To a young, gay person, it's constant reaffirmation that being gay is something negative. Let's get rid of "gay" as the go to word for friendly put-downs.

      Date and time
      April 11, 2014, 1:30PM
    • In my experience, it is Christians who are more respectful of gay people, and the non religious who are most likely to use terms such as "faggot" and "homo", use "gay" as a derogatory term, and make demeaning jokes about gay people behind their back.

      Date and time
      April 11, 2014, 1:31PM
    • @Witters

      That is complete nonsense. Christians are, on the whole, totally non-accepting and prejudice towards gay people. Try and get a job with a christian organization if you appear or are openly gay. You will be discriminated against EVERY time regardless of how competent you are.

      Date and time
      April 11, 2014, 1:47PM
    • Speaking as a gay Christian I can confirm that it is extremely difficult sometimes.

      Having said this, just about everyone in the church I've come out to over the years has treated me well. I haven't been called derogitory names, run out of church, abused or anything like that. My experience has shown Christian people (by and large) want to do the right thing, but they only know what the Bible says. So there is a great deal of ignorance there, but not hurtful hatred.

      People outside the church are just as ignorant on the subject. The pro-gay lobby has screamed so loudly that everyone's been convinced there's a gay gene when to date, none has been credibly found. Not saying there isn't one, just that there's more to learn. Anyone who says anything that doesn't support gay people 100% is shouted down so loudly, they aren't even allowed to finish their sentence, let alone express WHY they feel the way they do, thus becoming guilty of that which they accuse others of.

      Sitting in between all of this, the single biggest thing I've noticed is most people haven't got a clue what they're talking about, but act like they do. It's become such a heated issue that calm, rational, helpful discussion (irrespective of one's beliefs) is virtually impossible, which is incredibly sad.

      So please, everyone, no matter how you feel about it or what your beliefs are, try to remember that you're talking about real people in real pain and sexuality is NOT a simple black-and-white subject. It's incredibly complex and personal. You have one mouth and two ears and everyone will benefit by using the latter lots and the former little.

      Hills District
      Date and time
      April 11, 2014, 1:55PM
    • Unfortunately homophobia isn't reserved solely for people of "faith" (to use the most polite way to describe such hypocrites). Most of the homophobes I've encountered haven't set foot in a church in their lives and would only use a Bible as a doorstop.

      Homophobia and bigotry from any source is hurtful, ignorant and wrong. Address the whole issue, not just a subset of it.

      Date and time
      April 11, 2014, 2:17PM
    • Please tell me one gay person who has peace !!

      Date and time
      April 11, 2014, 2:19PM
    • Young people using the worg 'gay' do not do it in a discriminatory way, well most of them anyway in the modern schollyard way of using it.

      Do not get hung up about words, but intent. One day its ok to use one word the next day not, no wonder people get confused about what the actual wrongness is.

      Date and time
      April 11, 2014, 2:22PM
    • @witters

      "In my experience, it is Christians who are more respectful of gay people, and the non religious who are most likely to use terms such as "faggot" and "homo", use "gay" as a derogatory term, and make demeaning jokes about gay people behind their back."

      Non-topic but relevant to this topic and to your assertion: It is the good Christians who are not respectful to anyone or anything in my experience. Once "the good Christians" see something unusual or hear something unusual, they become scared and they backlash when they can. I have dealt with Christians who turn away from the Church and are still Christians inside and they're the ones who are cool. That's just my experience.

      Date and time
      April 11, 2014, 2:27PM
    • I'm gay, Kiwi, and I'm quite at peace, thanks for asking.

      Date and time
      April 11, 2014, 3:02PM

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Rugby World Cup 2015

Round 1
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ENG 35vs FJI 11 Report Stats
TGA 10vs GEO 17 Report Stats
IRE 50vs CAN 7 Report Stats
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IRE 44vs ROM 10 Report Stats
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NAM 16vs GEO 17 Stats
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NZL 47vs TGA 9 Report Stats
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SAM 33vs SCO 36 Report Stats
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ENG 60vs URU 3 Stats
ARG 64vs NAM 19 Report Stats
Mon, 12 OctTimes shown AEDT
ITA 32vs ROM 22 Report Stats
FRA 9vs IRE 24 Report Stats
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Round 2
Sun, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 23vs WAL 19 Stats
NZL 62vs FRA 13 Report Stats
IRE 20vs ARG 43 Report Stats
Mon, 19 OctTimes shown AEDT
AUS 35vs SCO 34 Stats
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Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Australia 4 4 0 0 106 17
Wales 4 3 1 0 49 13
England 4 2 2 0 58 11
Fiji 4 1 3 0 -17 5
Uruguay 4 0 4 0 -196 0
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Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
South Africa 4 3 1 0 120 16
Scotland 4 3 1 0 43 14
Japan 4 3 1 0 -2 12
Samoa 4 1 3 0 -55 6
USA 4 0 4 0 -106 0
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Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
New Zealand 4 4 0 0 125 19
Argentina 4 3 1 0 109 15
Georgia 4 2 2 0 -70 8
Tonga 4 1 3 0 -60 6
Namibia 4 0 4 0 -104 1
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Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Ireland 4 4 0 0 99 18
France 4 3 1 0 57 14
Italy 4 2 2 0 -14 10
Romania 4 1 3 0 -69 4
Canada 4 0 4 0 -73 2
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