Even more unfortunately, it's on a matter of homosexual issues, on which I am in no way an expert, and not being gay, not particularly well equipped to comment form a position of empathy. But even so.
I disagree with Helen's article which comments on Jason Akermanis's article in the Herald Sun.
The reason I disagree with it is because I really think Helen has misread it. If, as she says, all Akermanis was saying was "it wasn't a good idea for players to "come out" due to the storm of publicity such an act would brew", there'd be no problem.
If Akermanis had simply written that homophobia is a major problem in the AFL, there'd be no problem.
If Akermanis had said that any player who came out as gay would be subject to enormous pressure and vilification, there'd be no problem.
If Akermanis had said that he would advise a gay footballer to keep it secret purely because of the potential damage it would do that player, there'd be no problem.
But he didn't. He said players should stay in the closet, not just for their own sake, but so they didn't damage the "fabric of a club". So they didn't make their teammates uncomfortable in the locker room. Because once he played with a gay guy and nobody wanted to shower with him. Because, in fact, there is too much homoeroticism in football for homosexuality to be acceptable!
And there's the problem. Because if the fabric of a football club is such that it cannot handle homosexuality, the fabric of that club is not worth keeping intact. And if other players are made uncomfortable by the presence of a gay teammate, that's their problem, and they should go away and work on it as much as they need to to take their place in the 21st century as normal, fully-functioning human beings without idiotic hang-ups about gay people.
Now, I get where Helen's coming from. All those voices who pressure closeted gays to come out are misguided; nobody should "have to" come out if they don't want to. Nobody should have to define their sexuality if they don't want to. And if Gary Burns is launching a human rights complaint against Akermanis, then, well, Gary Burns is kind of a tool. And when she says:
Speaking from a personal experience, as many weighing in on this matter have, it's exhausting being defined in the terms of one's sexuality. And this is how one is explicitly defined after the disclosure, "I'm gay" or, worse, "I'm bisexual". Try it as an experiment in your workplace this afternoon. You will be treated as a hyper-sexual peril who cannot be trusted with anything including the stationery supplies. It's exhausting.
I get it, and that sucks. It's terrible.
BUT...it's really pretty easy for those of us who are perfectly able to live whatever lifestyle we want to, to form relationships with who we want to, to take whoever we want to out for dinner, to kiss whoever we want to in public, without worrying about getting vilified, abused, and ostracised by our friends and colleagues, without worrying about our career being crippled, without worrying about witnesses who might run to the paper to splash our name across the front page - in short, for those of us who have no need for a secret life - to tell others they shouldn't make such a big deal about their sexuality.
Straight people get to do all that. In most spheres of life, gay people do too. Those of us making a living commenting on these issues, like me, or Helen, or Gerard Whateley, or Michael Shmith, certainly do: should we be in a relationship with a partner of our choosing, nobody will tell us we have no right to tell anyone about it because it's all too much for our fragile industry to bear.
In football, they don't (apparently this also applies to politics - see David Campbell).
And that's they key. It's not about making a big hullabaloo about sexuality. It's not about being a "career homosexual". It's not about anyone having any kind of "duty" to come out. It's about saying, if people don't want to hide their sexuality, they shouldn't have to. If you don't want to say "I'm gay", or "I'm bisexual" at work, don't. It's idiotic to suppose you should "have to". But if someone asks you about your partner at work, you shouldn't feel that you have to lie about it either.
A footballer should be able to hold his boyfriend's hand on the Brownlow red carpet. A footballer should be able to kiss his boyfriend in public. A footballer should be able to mention his boyfriend in an interview. Or not, if he doesn't want to. But nobody has the moral right to tell him he shouldn't.
The first one who does is going to cop it, pretty harshly. It will take massive courage to do it, and I don't blame anyone who chooses not to go down that path. Nobody should ever be pressured to come out, in any walk of life. But nobody should be pressured not to, either, and THAT is where Akermanis breaks down, and where his supporters make their mistake too, in my opinion.
Because Akermanis may hope for a day when "coming out isn't a big deal", but the fact is, that day will never come unless people actually do it. Nobody will ever let you sit at the front of the bus as long as you stay in the back with your mouth shut.
I hope no gay footballer feels he "has" to come out. Or that he "has" to stay in the closet. But I hope someday soon some DO come out, because that inestimably brave act will be the first step towards ensuring future footballers don't have to be that brave, just to stop hiding.