LGBT History Month: Role Models Matter

SPORT  has a special way of bringing people together. The Christmas Truce of 1914 is a powerful and moving image – uniting two entirely different (and seemingly irreconcilable) groups together in the most serious and high-pressured situation the human race ever faces.

It’s that feeling of unity and community that sends droves of football fans to their club’s stadium to mix with so many vastly diverse people and it initiates the Cheltenham roar in March, enabling the employment of millions of people across the globe. However, this community has traditionally failed when it comes to outwardly and explicitly accepting its LGBT members. Is that true of horse racing too?

Horse Racing is a closed-off sport to many: horses are particularly costly, racing form is distinctly difficult to decipher and the sport isn’t something you can merely ‘pick up’ in a day. This sad, yet just criticism is the sport’s protection and its weakness. There are many people in racing who are LGBT, but only people within the tight-knit community know it. The knowledge doesn’t fill the pages of the Racing Post for everyone to read, it doesn’t in fact really drift away from the pubs and stable yards of Newmarket and Lambourn. It’s not done out loud for fringe racing fans to hear. In recent times, only Clare Balding springs to mind as an ‘out’ LGBT flag-bearer for the sport.

It was a surprise therefore that in 2013, apprentice jockey Jack Duern came out as gay via the Racing Post. Although his boss and many of his horses’ owners already knew, it was the first time an active jockey had revealed his sexuality to the press. The reaction it received exemplified the racing community’s feeling already – it was met neither with public outrage nor with an outpouring of support. Instead the racing community shrugged, and turned the page. It revealed simply that it isn’t an issue in horse racing. But why did Jack’s coming out matter so much?

Growing up, we all look to role models – outstanding people who we one day wish to imitate. For sporty kids, sport supplies those idols. In this current environment, fans don’t know there are gay stars out there – they’re growing up with the message that none of these role models identify quite the same as them. Imagine that; the people you admire the most and yearn to become are not fully representative of who you really are. And if they are, they don’t think anyone should know.

Not for a second am I suggesting racing stars need to come out extravagantly, adding #likesboys to every tweet, refusing to wear their silks unless they’re rainbow coloured or pushing the infamous ‘homosexual agenda’ every time they’re interviewed. However, they do need to be visible. Be it a jockey, who happens to be gay or a trainer who is actually trans. Represent your sport but be true to yourself – it’s not just you you’re representing. In racing, it seems that being LGBT isn’t a problem. But for many kids growing up, they need someone to stand up and remind them that that is the case.

Michael Andrews

Featured image: Racing Fotos 


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