Now, she wants Joe Biden to carve out an exception in an executive order he signed on his first day in office which says the federal government must not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Under the terms of that order, transgender students must be allowed to learn and participate in their schooling without facing sex discrimination – and that means that trans girls and women should compete on girls’ and women’s teams, according to the White House.
While there is already a patchwork of strict measures in place governing trans people’s participation in various elite sports, Navratilova wants Biden to carve out an exception to his executive order to ensure that women’s elite sports are not affected.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4, Navratilova said she supports equality but claimed that trans women have “pretty obvious” physical advantages, a suggestion which has been widely disputed by LGBT+ sporting organisations and experts, including Athlete Ally.
She said she opposed “an all-inclusive situation where trans men and women, just based on their self-ID, would be able to compete with no mitigation, no rules outside of that whatsoever”.
Navratilova said that such an eventuality, which is not currently the case, “would not be a level playing field” for cisgender women.
Martina Navratilova has claimed her trans-exclusionary views are based on ‘biology’
She was among a group of women who launched the Women’s Sports Policy Working Group on Tuesday (2 February), which claims it wants a “middle ground that protects girls’ and women’s sport and accommodates transgender athletes”.
The group has called for Biden to “carve out” out special rules in the executive order that would strictly control trans inclusion in elite sport.
“We are only talking about taking a carve-out or a separate policy for elite sports or sports at the higher level of high school, college and pros,” she said.
Martina Navratilova, who is a lesbian, came under fire on social media in December 2018 when she first complained about rules that allow trans women to participate in women’s sport.
In June 2019, Navratilova fronted a BBC documentary about trans athletes. In the documentary her views on trans participation in elite sports appeared to evolve from her previous stance.
She concluded that trans athletes should be able to participate in all levels of sport.
However, she later regressed to her earlier thinking, telling a summit in Scotland in September 2019 that her objections to trans women competing in sport are “about biology”.
Navratilova said: “In sport we have categories and it’s about biology and fairness, so I was always coming about it from that angle. And I still am.”
“I don’t think it should be up to women and girls to prove there is a disadvantage for us. I think it needs to be proven the other way — that there is no disadvantage — so that women and girls are not discouraged from playing the sport they love because they have no chance.”
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan should commit to introducing a law to protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, J-ALL, Athlete Ally, All Out and Human Rights Watch said today. 116 human rights and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) organizations sent a letter supporting such legislation to the prime minister on January 25, 2021, six months ahead of the day when the torch is scheduled to be lit at the Tokyo Olympics.
Tokyo was slated to host the 2020 Summer Olympics, but the International Olympic Committee and the Japanese government postponed the games for a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Tokyo 2020 Summer Games are advertised as celebrating “unity in diversity” and “passing on a legacy for the future.” To do this, Japan needs to enact a national anti-discrimination law to protect LGBT people and athletes in a way that meets international standards. The groups are running an #EqualityActJapan campaign in Japanese and English in support of a law to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
We call on Japan’s government to introduce and enact legislation to protect LGBT people from discrimination before the Olympics. It’s time for an Equality Act – and the countdown starts now. TAKE ACTION
“LGBT people in Japan, including athletes, are entitled to equal protection under the law, but currently we have only one known openly out active athlete and many remain in the closet from fear and stigma,” said Yuri Igarashi, director of the Japan Alliance for LGBT Legislation (J-ALL), an umbrella organization of 80 LGBT organizations in Japan. “The Olympic Games give Japan a wonderful opportunity to introduce and pass protections so that everyone in society can live openly and safely.”
The Olympic Charter expressly bans “discrimination of any kind,” including on the grounds of sexual orientation as a “Fundamental Principle of Olympism.” Japan has also ratified core international human rights treaties that obligate the government to protect against discrimination, including the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
“We have seen through history the power of the Olympics to mobilize athletes and fans to speak out for what they believe in, from Tommie Smith and John Carlos protesting racism in 1968 to the Principle 6 campaign fighting for LGBT athlete rights in 2014,” said Hudson Taylor, founder and executive director of Athlete Ally. “Sport teaches us that we are stronger when we stand together, and now is the time for the global sport community to stand in solidarity with the LGBT community in Japan.”
Japanese LGBT groups have pressed for six years to pass legislation to protect their rights, and their progress is seen in sharply changing attitudes in Japanese society, with public support for LGBT equality surging in recent years. In November, a nationwide public opinion survey found that 88 percent of those polled “agree or somewhat agree” with the “introduction of laws or ordinances that ban bullying and discrimination (in relation to sexual minorities).”
“This year, all eyes will be on Japan,” said Matt Beard, executive director at All Out. “In these trying times, the Olympic Games will be a welcome and much-needed celebration of humanity in all its beautiful diversity. By granting LGBT people protection from discrimination, Japan can prove that it truly supports the Olympic spirit of promoting tolerance and respect.”
Japan has increasingly taken a leadership role at the United Nations by voting for both the 2011 and 2014 Human Rights Council resolutions calling for an end to violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. But LGBT people in Japan continue to face intense social pressure and fewer legal protections than other Japanese.
“By passing landmark legislation to protect LGBT people including athletes, Japan not only can be a global LGBT rights leader, but it would also become part of Japan’s permanent Olympic legacy,” said Kanae Doi, Japan director at Human Rights Watch.
The Swiss 3×3 basketball star Marco Lehmann has come out as gay, revealing that he’s been living a painful double life throughout his sporting career.
Lehmann, 27, has played full-court basketball professionally since 2012. He now represents Switzerland on the international stage, where he is considered one of the best shooters on the 3×3 basketball circuit.
He recently opened his heart in an article for FIBA, the official website for the International Basketball Federation, explaining that he couldn’t wait until retirement to be his true self.
“This is for all the people who do not want to live a double life anymore, those who live in a system where they don’t even exist,” he said.
“This is for the future generations so they can live a free sporting life without hiding. Not gonna lie, this is also for me so I can live free of this burden.”
Over the years Lehmann played seven seasons across 20 countries, always saying he didn’t have a girlfriend because he was focused on his career. His dedication to the game made him the second-best player in Switzerland – “and yet I wasn’t happy,” he admitted.
“I had been switching personalities for so long now, that it was affecting my mental health. Every week the same old thing: my boyfriend would drive me to the airport and the minute I would go through security, the happy gay man in a relationship turned into the emotionless pro athlete, who didn’t want to talk about his personal life.”
Explaining why he kept his silence for so long, Lehmann related several examples of the homophobia he’d experienced from coaches and players, which constantly reinforced the sense that to be gay was “taboo” in team sports.
He recalled how one coach berated the team for “playing like gays,” and a fellow player on a tour bus described homosexuality as “a sickness”.
“[Homosexuals] should kill themselves,” he heard them say. “Imagine you have to play with somebody like this on your team?”
For a time he was able to convince himself that he loved basketball so much that he should hide who he was for the sake of the game – until December 2019, when he hit rock bottom.
“I started to have emotional outbursts, tears, cold sweat running down my back. And for what? Just thinking about the next practice,” he said. “I just couldn’t stand the thought of having to switch from my home personality to my competitive one once more.”
Those days are now firmly behind him as Lehmann joins a handful of gay professional basketball players to come out while still playing, including Jason Collins, Derrick Gordon and Uri Kokia.
The time has come, he said, to simply be happy and enjoy his hard-earned career without the fear of living a double life.
“Starting today I will be Marco Lehmann, gay 3×3 basketball player,” he declared. “And if you’ll excuse me, I’m trying to win the World Tour and take Switzerland to the 2024 Olympics.”
Transgender powerlifter JayCee Cooper is suing USA Powerlifting, the sport’s biggest U.S.-based organization, after it barred her from competition on the basis of her gender identity.
“It came as a surprise to me that when I applied to compete at my first competition, I was told that I couldn’t compete specifically because I’m a trans woman,” Cooper said at a news conference Tuesday. “I was gutted. I had been training for months and up until that point had experienced so much love and community around the sport.”
Cooper’s lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Minnesota state court by the Minnesota-based advocacy group Gender Justice, asserts that in banning Cooper and other trans athletes, USA Powerlifting, or USAPL, is in violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act.
The suit also notes that other powerlifting and athletic organizations — on the local, national and international levels — have measures that allow transgender women to participate.
The International Olympic Committee adopted guidelines in 2015 permitting trans women to compete if their testosterone remains below a certain level for at least 12 months. The International Powerlifting Federation, the parent organization of USA Powerlifting, adopted the IOC’s guidelines, but the international group doesn’t mandate that its national affiliates follow them.
Cooper’s lawsuit says she was rejected from competing even though she provided documentation that her testosterone levels had remained under the IOC’s accepted limit for two years.
“USAPL denied Ms. Cooper’s eligibility to compete because she is a transgender woman, withdrew her competition card because she is a transgender woman, and then went on to adopt a categorical ban on participation by transgender women athletes at USAPL competitions,” the lawsuit says. “USAPL discriminated against JayCee Cooper, and continues to do so, because she is a transgender woman.”
In a statement emailed to NBC News on Wednesday, USA Powerlifting said it “is aware of the public notice made on the Gender Justice website but are not in receipt of any formal filing at this time. We dispute the allegations and look forward to the opportunity to present the facts within the legal system.”
‘Powerlifting is not a fit for every athlete’
USA Powerlifting didn’t have established guidelines about transgender athletes until January 2019, around the same time it informed Cooper that she couldn’t compete.
“USA Powerlifting is not a fit for every athlete and for every medical condition or situation,” the organization’s Transgender Participation Policy states. “Simply, not all powerlifters are eligible to compete in USA Powerlifting.”
The policy says USA Powerlifting is a “sports organization with rules and policies” that “apply to everyone to provide a level playing field.” In a question-and-answer section about trans women’s inability to compete, the organization says powerlifting is a “sport of strength,” as opposed to a “sport of skill.”
“Men naturally have a larger bone structure, higher bone density, stronger connective tissue and higher muscle density than women,” it says. “These traits, even with reduced levels of testosterone do not go away. While MTF [male-to-female] may be weaker and less muscle than they once were, the biological benefits given them at birth still remain over than of a female.”
A study published last month in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that transgender women maintain an athletic advantage over their cisgender peers even after a year on hormone therapy. After two years, however, transgender women were “fairly equivalent to the cisgender women,” according to the study’s lead author. The findings were based on physical assessments of transgender military service members, not competitive athletes.https://www.instagram.com/p/BtHkZavluSv/embed/captioned/?cr=1&v=8&wp=1116&rd=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nbcnews.com&rp=%2Ffeature%2Fnbc-out%2Ftransgender-athlete-sues-usa-powerlifting-over-competition-ban-n1253960#%7B%22ci%22%3A0%2C%22os%22%3A825.0000000000001%2C%22ls%22%3A801%2C%22le%22%3A821.0000000000001%7D
A microphone picked up Thomas using the slur after he didn’t land a putt during the third round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.
“There’s absolutely no reason for me to say anything like that. It’s terrible,” Thomas told the Golf Channel after the round. “There’s just no excuse.”
Thomas, who could not be immediately reached Sunday, told the Golf Channel the comments do not reflect who he is and said he is “very apologetic.”
“As he expressed after his round, we agree that Justin’s comment was unacceptable,” the PGA Tour said in a statement Sunday.
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ rights group, condemned the slur. “This type of discriminatory language causes real harm, and there is no place for it in sports. We must continue to work for greater inclusion and acceptance,” the HRC’s president, Alphonso David, said on Twitter.
Thomas, 27, is a former world No. 1 golfer and has won more than 10 PGA Tour events.
After training for hours on end, year after year, some women athletes – particularly those competing on the world stage – are getting their careers and successes ripped away because of “sex testing,” practices, which are invasive and medically unnecessary procedures based on disputed science that dictates what “natural” testosterone levels can be for women, and the role it plays in performance. Women from the global south are disproportionately targeted. Sporting officials demand that these women undergo irreversible sterilization surgeries or hormone therapies to have a chance at competing again. Philippa Stewart spoke to Dr. Payoshni Mitra, who has worked for years with affected athletes, about a new Human Rights Watch report, “‘They’re Chasing Us Away from Sport’” and why these tests have to end.
What is it that singles women out?
Often it is just that they look different, less “feminine” than men, and it often is men, in charge of the national or international sports federations, who think they should.
These policies disproportionately target women from the global south, specifically black and brown women. It is important to note that there aren’t any similar rules governing men’s bodies.
There is evidence of research studies by doctors affiliated to the World Athletics where women’s bodies have been investigated and operated on. They treated these women like guinea pigs. They would not have done this to an athlete from Europe or America.
Do the athletes give consent to be tested?
Not informed consent. They are normally not told exactly why they are being tested or what is going to happen. In the case of one athlete, she was told it was about high performance, others are told various things that aren’t true.
There is also no privacy, the coach is there when the physical exams are done. Then the women are pressured into surgery or hormone therapy as the only ways they could possibly be allowed to compete in their preferred event.
Often these women start competing because the prizes are a way to survive, to pull their family out of poverty. They love sports and see it as the thing that can change the fate of their family. And then suddenly they are told they don’t have a chance unless they take irreversible medical steps.
They are also told not to talk about it and to come up with some excuse about why they are not competing. This creates a feeling of shame for them, like there’s something wrong with them and they shouldn’t talk about it. It makes them feel inadequate, like they’re not the “correct” kind of woman. Athletes told me it feels like a way of telling them they aren’t good enough.
Are doctors willing to perform these tests without consent?
This isn’t a normal doctor-patient relationship. The athletic federations that are directly connected to the doctors are both requesting the invasive treatment and being given information by the doctors about the athletes. The athletes don’t have any autonomy around this process. Their medical information is passed on from the doctor to the athletic federation that decides their future and whether they will be allowed to compete.
Some people believe that if a woman doctor performs the test then it is fine. But it isn’t necessarily so. It is still an extra pair of eyes and hands on your body in a way you haven’t consented to. That is not fine.
The women are told not to speak about it because of “confidentiality,” but this protects the federations and the people performing the tests and not usually the athletes.
The World Medical Association has said these tests shouldn’t be performed. Has that made a difference?
Honestly, no. The WMA made it clear that the sex testing regulations are unethical and instructed doctors not to implement them. But the doctors are not controlled by medical authorities, they do what their collaborators – the athletic federations – tell them to do, and they follow what the international bodies say. There needs to be a change in sporting policy at the international level for these harmful practices to stop.
What happens after women are told they can’t compete?
Often these women start competing because of the prizes. Sometimes the prize is some food, and one woman told me she won a cow as a young girl, which meant her family could have milk every day. Sport, competing for the national team, it’s something to aim for because it pulls you out of poverty, it helps your family. Athletes in many countries get lifetime government jobs after they finish competing if they did well and brought pride to their country.
These policies disproportionately target women from the global south, specifically black and brown women. Dr. Payoshni Mitra
When that goes away, often the woman’s family stops supporting them. Especially because there are all these rumors around why they had to stop competing – that there is something shameful about them. These women can lose their support network overnight and they don’t even get told exactly why.
There are also long-term effects for these women if they try to stay in sports. They are constantly under scrutiny, they start to feel unsafe, people gossip about them constantly. It is a very hard thing to deal with when no one has told you why it is happening in a way that you understand.
South African runner Caster Semenya is probably the most famous case of gender testing. Is that where most people’s knowledge of these examinations comes from?
I am privileged to know Ms. Semenya, and she is a wonderful and extremely resilient champion, both on and off the field, who has a very important story to tell. But she is not the whole story. She was already at the top of her career when this happened and people are, rightly, rallying around to support her. She has support in a way that a lot of these women, at the start of their careers, often young and alone and not aware of their rights, do not have. It is, to my mind, a good thing more people are aware of these horrific tests now, but even with that, people don’t realize how many women it affects and what they go through, what they have to overcome.
She is a wonderful champion, but the media should highlight other stories too, of the women who don’t rise to those heights. The women who are just mid-level, proud to represent their country, and trying to build a better life, and then they have it ripped away.
What can be done to protect those women?
Education on rights – many athletes didn’t even know that the court of arbitration for sport existed, let alone that they could take their case there. I have been working with women athletes for years trying to make them aware of their rights. It is no coincidence that these policies affect women from poorer countries, where they don’t have the same level of awareness about their rights.
I advise athletes not to allow federations to communicate with them verbally. It is important to have evidence of what the federations ask athletes to do in writing. If they ask for every communication to be in writing, federation officials realize that they must take that athlete seriously and treat her respectfully.
Women are now challenging these policies in courts of law, both national and international. This is a recent development and it makes me happy to see that more and more women athletes from Asia and Africa are becoming conscious of their rights.
What about the testing policies?
They need to end. At a national level, and at an international level. There are some women who compete nationally, and then just as they are about to make it to the international stage, they get tested and dropped. There’s major downstream impact from the global regulations. That’s because the national federations or sport ministries see these international federation policies and think they have to test first. All levels of sport need to stop these tests now.
Is there anything that makes you hopeful things can change for the better?
These women have been scrutinized for so long and now, finally, that is being switched and it is the federations dealing with scrutiny for what they have done.
This report is the first time the world is truly hearing the voices of some of the women affected by these policies. Annet Negesa, the Ugandan runner who was sex tested and ruled ineligible, broke her silence for first time in an interview to Human Rights Watch last year. That was incredibly brave. Finally, after more than a decade of work, the world is paying attention.
I believe it is extremely powerful that all the affected athletes I am working with are now refusing harmful medical intervention. Dutee Chand and Caster Semenya have spoken openly about not succumbing to any pressure of taking medical steps. They have inspired athletes across the world to switch to a completely new, unrestricted event, rather than consent to these harmful and irreversible medical interventions. Switching events often outs them as having high testosterone. But that is not deterring them. It is a clear message to the World Athletics: “Enough is enough.”
In a live online webinar broadcast from Hong Kong on Nov. 12, organizers of the 11th quadrennial Gay Games celebrated the start of a two-year countdown for the Nov. 12, 2022 opening ceremony at the Hong Kong Stadium for the world’s largest LGBTQ sports competition and arts andcultural event.
Members of the Gay Games Hong Kong 2022 organizing team, which is an arm of the U.S.-based Federation of Gay Games, told the 79 people who joined the webinar from 29 countries that they expect 12,000 participants, 75,000 spectators, and 3,000 volunteers – a total of at least 90,000 from 100 countries — to take part in the Hong Kong Gay Games.
They noted that 36 sporting events are planned, including traditional sports like soccer, wrestling, volleyball, and figure skating as well as sports more common in Asia such as dragon boat racing, dodgeball, eSports, and trail running.
An outdoor Festival Village will be opened near the harbor in central Hong Kong that will showcase art and cultural events and exhibits as well as performing arts events including daily performances by bands, dance groups, and vocalists that have been associated with the Gay Games for many years, according to literature released by organizers.
Members of the organizing team also pointed to what they consider an historic first. The location of the Gay Games in Hong Kong will mark the first time in its 40-year history that the quadrennial event will be held in Asia.
“Unity is the key message of Gay Games Hong Kong,” said Dennis Philipse, a Hong Kong resident and the founder and co-chair of Gay Games Hong Kong.
“Carrying a torch of empowerment and connection in Hong Kong serves to bring our community together in this important time for our city,” he said in a statement.
“We are excited to welcome all the 12,000 participants and 75,000 spectators from 100 countries to the city as the Games serve to boost the local economy by 1 billion Hong Kong dollars,” he said.
Neither Philipse nor the other Gay Games Hong Kong organizers who spoke at the webinar mentioned the political strife and turmoil that has unfolded in Hong Kong beginning several years ago when pro-democracy protesters began a series of almost daily demonstrations, some of which turned violent. Many of the protesters said they were raising strong objections to China’s growing efforts in recent years to gain control of the local Hong Kong government that protesters say violates China’s international agreement in 1997 with Great Britain to allow Hong Kong to govern itself in domestic affairs for 50 years as a condition for Britain to cede Hong Kong to China.
The protests and virtually all of the episodes of violence appear to have stopped in July of this year shortly after China intervened by enacting a “national security” law that bypassed Hong Kong’s local legislature and which essentially bans demonstrations against the government of Hong Kong or China. The law defines such demonstrations as “sedition” and “subversion of state power” and calls for punishment of up to life in prison for violating the new law.
Federation of Gay Games spokesperson Shiv Paul told the Washington Blade in a statement that the Gay Games Hong Kong 2022 organizing team has created a contingency planning committee that has developed plans to address “potential scenarios/risks such as an on-going pandemic, social unrest or unseasonal weather events.”
“We are closely monitoring the health, political, sporting, travel, and international events that could impact the delivery of Gay Games 11 in Hong Kong,” Paul said. “Plans are in development so that we have prepared actions that would assist in mitigating the potential impact of any unfortunate circumstances that might arise.”
Paul added that there has not been a recurrence in “protest violence” in Hong Kong since the new national security law took effect in July of this year.
“The National Security Law (NSL) targets activities that endanger national security (secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign or external forces),” he said. “It does not have any bearing on LGBT+ affairs or sporting competitions,” Paul stated in his statement. “Based on our assessment to date, we do not expect the NSL will have any direct impact on the Gay Games taking place in Hong Kong.”
Added Paul, “Once the coronavirus pandemic is more settled, we anticipate Hong Kong will deliver a strong program of events to rebuild the tourism industry and Gay Games Hong Kong will be well timed to be a strong event within these plans.”
Philipse and others who spoke at the Nov. 12 webinar from Hong Kong said LGBTQ supportive sports organizations and businesses in Hong Kong have expressed strong support for the Gay Games and have made financial contributions to support the city’s ability to hold the Games. Organizers also point out that local Hong Kong government officials have also expressed support for the Games.
“Becoming Asia’s first city to host Gay Games isn’t just a cause for pride and celebration for Hong Kong,” said Ricky CHU Man-kin, chairperson of Hong Kong’s Equal Opportunities Commission. “It drives home the message that the LGBTI community and indeed all in society deserve to be visible, represented and included in sports and other areas of life,” CHU Man-kin said in a statement released by Gay Games Hong Kong 2022.
A 60-minute video recording of the webinar organized by Gay Games Hong Kong can be accessed through this link.
Additional information about Gay Games Hong Kong 2022 can be accessed here.
The Swiss Federal Supreme Court ruled that in order to compete in events between 400 metres and a mile, she must take hormones to reduce her natural testosterone levels – or else be considered illegible.
She said at the time: “I refuse to let World Athletics drug me or stop me from being who I am.
“Excluding female athletes or endangering our health solely because of our natural abilities puts World Athletics on the wrong side of history.
“I will continue to fight for the human rights of female athletes, both on the track and off the track, until we can all run free the way we were born. I know what is right and will do all I can to protect basic human rights, for young girls everywhere.”
Refusing to back down, Semenya has now decided to take her case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
According to Reuters, her lawyer Greg Nott said in a statement: “We will be taking World Athletics to the European Court of Human Rights. We remain hopeful that World Athletics will see the error it has made and reverse the prohibitive rules which restrict Ms Semenya from competing.”
Alongside her dazzling athletic career, Semenya has become a role model for queer people around the world in her fight for equality.
The chair of England’s Football Association, Greg Clarke, has resigned after referring to ‘coloured footballers’ and saying being gay is a ‘life choice’ in front of parliament.
Clarke was, until yesterday, the chair of the Football Association (FA), which governs association football in England, Jersey, Guernsey, and the Isle of Man.
On Tuesday (10 November), Clarke attended a parliamentary hearing with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport via video call.
But when answering questions from MPs on diversity in English football, he made a series of offensive and outdated comments about Black people, South Asian people, gay people and women.
Discussing online abuse, Clarke told MPs: “If I look at what happens to high-profile female footballers, high-profile coloured footballers and the abuse they take on social media… social media is a free for all, and people can see if you’re Black, and if they don’t like Black people because they’re filthy racists, they will abuse you anonymously online.”
mmediately after his comments, he was asked by the committee whether he would like to apologise for his use of the term “coloured”.
Clarke said he “deeply apologised” but insisted he has “worked overseas” and added: “Sometimes I trip over my words.”
But his comments about race were not over.
Asked about the lack of Asian footballers in English football, Clarke insisted that compared to “Afro-Caribbean communities”, “South Asians… have different career interests”, and were more likely to work in “the IT department at the FA”.
He said: “What I would want to do is to know that anybody who runs out onto the pitch and says on Monday, ‘I’m gay and I’m proud of it and I’m happy and it’s a life choice’… they would have the support of their mates in the changing room.”
Clarke also claimed that “the women’s game is different” because “girls… just don’t like having the ball kicked at them hard”.
Lou Englefield, director of the international campaign Football v Homophobia, said in a statement responding to Clarke’s comments: “The idea that being gay is a life choice is an outdated concept that many people will find deeply offensive.
“There are some people who will use a statement like this from the FA chairman as a way to prop up their homophobia.
“We are deeply disappointed that the FA has expressed this opinion alongside sexist opinions about girls and the use of racist language and stereotypes.”
Dan Palmer has come out as gay, becoming the first Wallabies player and just the second men’s international to do so.
In a moving column for the Sydney Morning Herald, the 32-year-old Australian former rugby union player described his mental health problems and drug abuse as he struggled to accept his sexuality, revealing that he regularly cried himself to sleep and even contemplated suicide.
“I was incredibly frustrated, angry and desperately sad. I despised myself and the life I was living. I was trapped in a false narrative and could see no way out,” he wrote. “Most nights, I cried myself to sleep and routinely numbed myself with a heavy cocktail of opioids.
“I fantasised about disappearing, changing my name and starting my life all over again. It is not an exaggeration to say my own death felt preferable to anybody discovering I was gay.”
After years of emotional turmoil, Palmer said he was partly prompted to come out in response to “the ignorance of Israel Folau”.
Folau was sacked from the New South Waratahs in disgrace last year for his persistent homophobic remarks, including the claims that “hell awaits” gay people and the Australian bushfires are “God’s judgment” for same-sex marriage.
Folau launched a $14 million wrongful dismissal lawsuit against Rugby Australia and eventually received a hefty settlement and an apology from his former employer. The disgraced player has now signed a new deal to play for the RFL Super League team Catalans Dragons.
His explosive comments led Palmer to reflect on how homophobia is internalised by young players, which was a contributing factor in his decision to write the column.
Dan Palmer: ‘Israel Folau will never see the impact he has had on these young people, but if he could, I doubt he could live with himself.’
Dan Palmer continued: “Although it wasn’t the primary impetus for me doing this, the longer the Folau saga dragged on, the more I felt a responsibility to say something.
“To me, what is more important than the damage he has caused rugby is the deep impact he has undoubtedly had on kids who looked up to him, and who struggle every day with understanding their sexuality.
“He will never see the impact he has had on these young people, but if he could, I doubt he could live with himself.”