Tackling Stereotypes in Rugby
“I’m addicted to you, don’t you know that you’re toxic?” If you just sung that line in your head then you are more than likely one of our LGBT+ players and you have probably sung your heart out to Miss Britney Jean Spears on more than one occasion over the years in the Boston or similar such establishments. You may know first hand how toxic the LGBT+ community can be at times and how damaging this can be to our mental health and self-esteem. There are only so many Grindr rejections you can take, right?
But it’s not just ‘our’ community that can be toxic. You only have to read articles online or watch an episode of Eastenders or Hollyoaks to know that men from all backgrounds can feel under extreme pressure to act in a certain way, or to be ‘manly’. This is known as toxic masculinity which refers to the notion that some people’s idea of “manliness” perpetuates domination, homophobia, and aggression. This can be harmful to our mental health and can also have serious consequences for society.
At the Outlaws we do what we can to scrummage our way through misconceptions and stereotypes and take every opportunity to educate against hate and discrimination. With this and the very current issue of toxic masculinity in the forefront of our minds we composed a series of questions that we wanted to put to our wonderfully diverse players to find out what their perceptions were of rugby and the LGBT+ community. We hoped that we would be able to bust a few myths, squash some stereotypes about inclusive rugby and how clubs like the Outlaws may have altered their perceptions.
As with many things over the last year, Zoom became our makeshift bar where we talked all things rugby. This was the beginning of ‘Interview with an Outlaw – Pass it On…’ The idea was initially to interview a small handful of players, but by now you have probably been interviewed and will have ‘Passed it On’ by interviewing another player. We now have over 50 interviews in the kit bag from players past, present and future.
We have learned so much about what perceptions people have towards both traditional and inclusive rugby. We found that the way we feel about traditional rugby clubs varies greatly, and that it is generally based on what age we were introduced to the game. We were extremely happy to discover that experiences of being part of the LGBT+ community are generally positive, not only for our LGBT+ players, but also our straight players.
A recurring theme was that many felt that they couldn’t just join a traditional club as they wouldn’t feel welcomed based on their playing experience and rugby knowledge, let alone how people would react to their sexuality or gender identity . Gay and inclusive teams are obviously known to welcome people irrespective of their sexuality and gender identity, but they are also nurturing environments where people can come and learn to play rugby, even if they have never picked up an odd shaped ball before .
The Outlaws have broken down barriers and stereotypes of what people thought of both inclusive and traditional rugby clubs. We have positively changed the perceptions of clubs and players that may not have encountered inclusive rugby clubs before and have impacted change in their attitudes towards the standard of play that can be expected.
Finally, and most importantly, in a time when we haven’t been able to see each other and play the game we all love, we have shown we can still grow as a team and build that family feeling we all treasure so much. Remember the final question that we all struggled with? What three words would you use to describe the Outlaws? We were blown away with what you all said and felt those words needed to be immortalised in to club history. So we give you our Outlaws Word Shield.
The ‘Interview with an Outlaw – Pass it On’ series will be released every Friday on our YouTube channel NorthamptonOutlawsRFC Check it out, hit the SUBSCRIBE button and remember to PASS IT ON!