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HindustanTimes Sun,20 Apr 2014

'Support, don't patronise us', say proud members of the LGBT community

Hindustan Times   November 29, 2013
First Published: 19:48 IST(29/11/2013) | Last Updated: 21:20 IST(29/11/2013)

Last Sunday, the sixth edition of the gay pride parade was held in Delhi. Many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender marchers covered up. They had not come out to their families and friends yet. But for every person under cover, there were proud members of the LGBT community accompanied by their supporters. And supporting isn’t patronising. You don’t ‘patronise’ a child learning to ride a bike.
 
Earlier this year, professional basketball player, Jason Collins celebrated his 'coming out' in a Sports Illustrated story. US President Barack Obama congratulated Collins, who shortly after made an appearance on talk show queen Oprah Winfrey’s show. Since then, he has been inducted in the first National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame. However, no NBA team has offered him a contract. 

In a moving interview, the basketball player called Martina Navratilova his “role model.” Navratilova, the Czech-American tennis player, came out as a bisexual in 1981. Looking back, the nine-time Wimbledon winner says it was tough – public support wavered and endorsements deserted from her but the athlete, finally “free,” focused on her game and became the first openly active professional athlete to come out. She also went on to become only one of the greatest players tennis has ever seen.
 
More than 20 years after Navratilova’s announcement, Collins was inspired to come out. Popular belief is that it is more challenging for homosexual male athletes to come out. More so if you play in a team. Navratilova once said, “A homophobic coach at any level - high school, college or pros — could keep a player from playing.”
 
But what of Wales international Gareth Thomas who plays rugby? Rugby! Credit to the sport for coming across like the exception to the draconian unwritten rule? And kudos to Thomas.
 
Fans have paid far too much for lousy games starring lukewarm talents. Athletes have worked far too hard to be dropped out for their sexual orientation. After all the laurels are tucked away in a shelf, it’s anyway the impact they make to social change that matters. 
 
After calls from activists to ban the Sochi Games for Russia’s stance on homosexuals, and the United Nations asking them to behave, Russian strongman Vladimir Putin although defending his government's decision to implement a new law banning "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations around minors", saying it was meant to protect young people from what he calls ‘gay propaganda’, added that hatred towards gays was unacceptable.
 
New Zealand's short track speed skater Blake Skjellerup is headed to Sochi. "I would love for Putin to get to know me. I would tell him how much I disagree with his oppressive anti-gay propaganda laws, and that he has a responsibility as the president of Russia to represent all the people of his country," said skater who came out in 2000.
 
Fifa president Sepp Blatter once “advised” homosexual fans heading to Qatar for the 2022 World Cup to “refrain from sexual activities for a month” because of the host nation’s ban on homosexuality. Perhaps goaded by his PR army, the Swiss later apologised.

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Before making his move to LA Galaxy, Robbie Rogers decided to quit football because of the game’s “pack mentality” that made it hard for professionals to come out.
 
The Football Association of England had plans to launch an anti-homophobia campaign video. The event was delayed because no Premier League footballer was willing to publicly endorse it.
 
Interesting fact: Gay rights charity Stonewall and bookmaker Paddy Power have calculated the odds of there being no gay footballer in British soccer as 1 in 2.29 x 10 to the power of 134.
 
Son of ex-Liverpool centre-back Glenn Hysen and openly gay football player, Anton Hysen said, "We can run, we can play, we can score. So what's the problem?” If only the rest of the world thought like Hysen. Former Crystal Palace manager, Alan Smith, once succinctly remarked, "You can get drunk and beat up your wife and that's quite acceptable but if you were to say, "I'm gay", it's considered awful. It's ridiculous."
 
One bird-brained journalist once asked Navratilova: "Are you still a lesbian?" The Czech-American replied: "Are you still the alternative?" Nobody else could have put it better. Don’t be an outsider, have some pride.

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