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Skjellerup: Come Out: Good Athletes Aren’t Cowards

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Blake Skjellerup

By Blake Skjellerup on January 27, 2011

Right now there is a little German gay boy sitting in his room, wondering how he can be gay and make it into the professional world of sports. That used to be me, just with out the German part (although I am a fan of Wiener Schnitzel). Yes, I know Wiener Schnitzel is Austrian, but I liked the pun.

To be honest, I am a little tired of featuring items that do not emit a positive message. I would quite like to be writing about rainbows and unicorns, as they are magical and beautiful. However, as this is an issue close to my heart, again this week I need to highlight the struggle that is LGBT human rights.

Before today I had never heard of Ursula Holl, a professional football (soccer) player for the FCR 2001 Duisburg club, which plays in the German Women’s Football League. Holl is also a member of the German National Women’s team. She’s also a lesbian. That’s irrelevant to her football career, but it’s relevant to this article.

Holl is married, her sexuality positively accepted across the board, and she is the only international female football player to be married to a woman.

Speaking candidly with German news source Bild (it’s in German, I had someone translate for me), Holl said “If I had not married, I would not have gone public with my homosexuality. This is my private affair. But the step to become married was consciously made. Therefore, I have no problem with everyone knowing. And furthermore,” she says grinning, “I have a wife that I need not hide.”

“I think it is problematic that gay players should come out,” referring to her male football colleagues. “The more you disclose about your personal life, the more vulnerable you are. And the fans in the stadium can be very, very cruel. These public hostilities would be difficult to bear…I would not advise any football player to come out.”

If I had the opportunity to ask Miss Holl a question, I’d ask her whether she believes cowards make good athletes. In the world of sport you cannot lack the courage to endure dangerous or unpleasant things. Pressure, pain and defeat are just some of the many characteristics one most overcome to be a successful athlete.

Adversity motivates. The world of sport is full of heckling, sledging, and abuse. I doubt when Gareth Thomas takes to the field and hears the word “faggot” or “homo” he runs back to the locker room crying. I am sure the comments only spur him to want to obliterate the opposing team even more.

I do not wish to attack Miss Holl for her comments. She is not being homophobic or attacking a group of individuals. She is merely stating her opinion as a fellow athlete, a fellow homosexual. Wherever the stigma of having to hide who you are because of your sexuality came from, that time is now over. There is no shame in being harassed or insulted for what you truly are. Own it. Use it. I am a homo, a faggot, butt pirate, pillow biter; I take no shame in that. Thank you, genius spectator, for stating the obvious. I am out here playing a game of football. Now if you don’t mind, I am going to get on with it.

Whether someone in professional sport wishes to come out or not is his or her own decision. It should not be forced upon them, and it should come in one’s own time. In saying that, the advice I offer is this: You are not alone. Many others just like you and me are out there. For me, coming out made my life better. I perform better, I live better, and life all around is generally better. If you are afraid of what you might lose, think about what you will gain. If one door closes, I can promise you that another will open.

Blake Skjellerup is a competitive short track speed skater who competed for New Zealand in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games. Blake trains and lives in Calgary, Canada, where he will spend the next 3 years preparing for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

You can read Blake’s full archive on HyperVocal here. You can also follow him on Twitter @blakeskjellerup or become a fan of his on Facebook.

*Many thanks to Sandro Wiggerich for translating the Bild story.

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