The strength to be different, the courage to be yourself
by Gordon Lamont
Suitable for Key Stage 4/5
To reflect on recent news of sportsmen and women coming out.
Preparation and materials
- Read or watch some of the news reports about sportsmen and women who have announced that they are gay or in a same-sex relationship. For example:
– Casey Stoney, Arsenal Ladies defender and England captain, at: www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/26084748
– Tom Daley, Olympic diver, at: www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-25183041
– Jason Collins, American basketball player, at: www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-26318063
- Note that students may be uncertain about their own sexuality, so sensitivity is needed in the delivery of this material. If possible, ensure that access to advice and counselling is available. The NUT has produced a useful document for teachers on the issues raised, which is available at: www.teachers.org.uk/files/AntiHomophobic-6326_0.pdf
- Reference news reports about sportswomen and men who have announced that they are gay or in a same-sex relationship, such as those listed in the ‘Preparation and materials’ section, including Casey Stoney, Arsenal Ladies defender and England captain, Olympic diver Tom Daley and Jason Collins, an American basketball player.
Read the following quotes.
For the last ten years, I've always cared too much what other people think. I was frightened of the stereotypes, frightened of being judged, frightened of what other people might say . . .
I mean, I'm still Tom, I still want to win an Olympic gold medal in Rio 2016 for Great Britain. I am still as motivated as ever to do that.
President Obama called Jason Collins to tell him he was ‘impressed by his courage’.
- Say that each of these sports stars has made a brave personal decision to speak out in a field that is not traditionally tolerant of gay men and women. Courage would have been needed because they would have had very real fears about how such an announcement could have affected their careers, their relationships with colleagues, how they would be treated in the press and the reactions of unkind people, particularly on social media.
- Point out that coming out is not the only thing that calls for this kind of courage. To be different in any way can be challenging, particularly in a school environment where it might be hard to profess a particular faith or political view, for example, if the majority do not share it.
There are many people who know the anxiety of feeling that they are just different from the majority of those around them and this is not their choice. Prejudice can be experienced by those who are gay just as much as it sadly is by any whose ethnicity or culture is in a minority in any given group, such as a school. That is why these sports stars deserve the kind of praise President Obama and many others have given them; they have been prepared to be proud of their difference whatever some people might think.
Time for reflection
How can we build a society that values all people equally, allowing everyone to be free of the fear of prejudice, free to be themselves and to be proud of who they are?
How can we reflect this in our lives in the school community?