Athletes coming out as gay has been a hot topic recently. Michael Sam, a high-profile football player, recently came out. His performance throughout the season earned him a spot on the All- SEC team. Jason Collins, the first openly gay NBA player, just signed a new contract with the Brooklyn Nets.
But Mitchell Peardon, a St. Thomas rugby player, said, “His performance should come first and his sexuality second.”
Peardon came out to his team over Facebook before the start of the rugby season last fall. He was nervous to come out to his team, because of locker room stereotypes.
“With everyone there’s a lot of fear of judgment, rejection and getting bullied,” said Peardon.
He admits that pop culture stereotypes played a part in his fears of coming out. Gay characters are often bullied and beaten up on television shows. Those images made Peardon reluctant to come out to his friends in school in case Hollywood’s portrayal of gay characters was real.
He knew he was gay in the sixth grade. He only began to tell his closet friends in the ninth grade and in grade 11 he came out to his entire school.
Peardon says he comes from a small town in PEI with conservative views. He thought the small town would judge him for being gay. Most were supportive and only a small fraction of people talked about him behind his back, he says.
But he was most concerned about how people would react to a gay rugby player.
“Rugby is considered a manly sport so I didn’t know the feedback I’d get from it.”
Peardon began playing in the grade 11. He likes the physicality and danger of the sport, even though men who are gay are commonly labeled as “effeminate” he said.
When he came out to his team, he was surprised to hear players giving him encouraging messages. They were accepting of him, and now he sees them as brothers.
“It doesn’t matter that you’re gay, it matters how you play the game,” his teammates told him.
After Sam, a likely top draft pick, came out earlier this year, some NFL players said they would be uncomfortable showering and changing in front of a gay athlete. Peardon says that shouldn’t be the case.
“Not every gay man is attracted to every straight guy.”
Peardon maintains he’s trying to make everyone around him feel comfortable, so he would never want to cross that line with a teammate. He has gone as far as to crack gay jokes himself just trying to make everyone around him feel comfortable.
“I’d rather be known as a nice guy rather than be known as the gay guy.”
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