Ed Team

Max Clifford on staying in the closet

Filed By Ed Team | December 26, 2009 7:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Quote of the Day
Tags: britain, football game, Max Clifford, soccer, uk

"Do I think that's right? Of course not. It's a very sad state of affairs. But it's a fact that homophobia in football is as strong now as it was 10 years ago. If you'd asked me in 2000 whether I thought we'd have a famous, openly gay footballer by 2010 I would have said yes.

"You look across society and see openly gay people in music, movies, television, politics, the clergy, and it's not a problem, nor in many sports. It's not that footballers are homophobic but the fans can be vicious."

--Britain's top PR agent Max Clifford on why he's advised gay footballers to stay in the closet in the past

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I am not surprised that in professional and college football no one has come out. The same is true for many professions where the financial stakes are high, including sports and acting.

I am sure many of these people are surrounded by advisors -- each of whom protecting their own financial incentives -- who create a heterosexual world around them.

As a society we love to create super-heroes, men and women who cannot possibly be all that we want them to be. Then at their first sign of human weakness, we love to rip them apart and portray them as less human than we are. Think: Tiger Woods. We hold them up, aspiring to be like them, and at their first sign of human vulnerability we relish in the "fact" that they are really less than we are.

In my psychiatric residency, one of my supervisors asked me if I would ever have sex with a patient. Knowing that it is completely unethical, I said, "It is certainly my intention NEVER to do so. But I accept the fact that I am human and at times I am weak and vulnerable." My supervisor exploded and could have failed me in the residency.

I still believe that it is better for all of us to recognize that as human beings we can have moments of weakness, lapses of judgement and human failings, and that by recognizing that we do, we can guard against them.

As an openly gay psychiatrist, who came out late in life, perhaps I guarded against my "failings" too long. When I came out, the consequences of doing so were far less than I had imagined. But not only do we protect ourselves from the personal consequences, we are often surrounded by others who encourage us to remain closet because they have a high personal stake in our doing so.

Loren A Olson MD

Dr. Arni Arnthorsson | December 27, 2009 1:05 PM

As a former soccer player both in Europe, at a highest college level in the U.S., and as a semi-professional in the old USISL league in the U.S. I know very well what it means to be gay and in the closet in a team sport. This was in the 80's and 90's and I knew if any of my team mates would know of my sexuality it would mean the end of my soccer career. Although I could state with absolute truth and conviction I never viewed my team mates as anything but my brothers none (or at least very few) of them would have believed it and at the minimum they would never have showered with me. That is the obivous part of homophobia for someone par taking in a team sport. I received enough abuse from fans of opposing teams to know it would have been brutal if my sexuality had been known. I can't even begin to tell you what it would have meant on the field where opponents foul you, often deliberately. I would have been a red mark for a crazy bull of ignorant haters many of whom I played against. These guys often needed little incentive to hurt you, and knowing someone to be gay would have been almost a permission to hurt someone.

It is simply viewed as unacceptable even today and team sports are as homophobic as anything. Justin Fashanu, a well known, talented, and successful soccer player in England was outed in the late 80's and was ostracized and ridiculed. After years of self abuse. self-hate, and heavy drinking he committed suicide. His brother, a professional soocer player as well admitted he turned his back on his brother like all of professional soccer in England did and today says it is one of his biggest regrets.
We still have a long way to go, but at least we are coming out after our careers (little by little), and I know my former team mates have for the most part been very supportive since knowing about my sexuality.

Mind you the same hate and ignorance is not true with our female counterparts where being out as lesbian has been widely accepted since I can remember. It is the guys who are so insecure of their sexuality. Until we raise the boys right this will not change.

We simply have to keep on trying.