This month is also LGBT+ month. I thought about this when I looked at the LPGA’s home page and saw a picture of a double bride wedding of a tour player and her female caddie.
I then saw an article about the only Formula One driver who ever came out and thought that is exactly the same in golf.
Why is it that there are so many openly gay players in the women’s game, but not in the men’s?
I asked a top professional this some years ago. He replied “there are no gay players on tour, it would be very difficult for them if there were”.
Golf in the men’s game doesn’t accurately reflect society with an estimated 10% of the population identifying as LGBT+. So it is possible that there may be a few, but if so, they are in deep cover. To date only one PGA Tour player, Tadd Fujikowa, has come out.
Nevertheless there have been two instances where the PGA Tour and the PGA of America have stepped in and dealt with people who made homophobic slurs. So there is acknowledgement that the gay community be respected.
In 2014 PGA of America President Ted Bishop was sacked for making two remarks on social media about Ian Poulter behaving “like a little girl”. Although at the time it was referred to as a derogatory remark, it implies that Poulter was behaving in an effeminate way, so it is also something else.
And this year Justin Thomas lost sponsors after being heard on a greenside television microphone at the Sentry Tournament of Champions calling himself a homophobic word after he missed a putt.
Two quite different scenarios – one was directed at someone, the other called himself something. But the implication was the same, effeminacy and being a homosexual is not ok. What was said was never ok.
Justin Thomas apologised immediately and owned up:
“It’s not a word that I use, but for some reason it was in there. I’m going to figure out why it was in there”.
Not trying to justify what he did but questioning, was that really homophobic or was it really about the act of swearing? It may be that it wasn’t “in there” for any other reason than the word had a satisfying sound to berate himself with. Perhaps he just didn’t think about what he said. Golfers do need a substitute – a groan, grunt, agggh, – but don’t attach words to the sound, when the swear words can be hate words, violent slurs, or sexual words, or words to describe the man’s nether reasons, so often heard on golf courses when shots don’t go to plan.
But that particular word has most hurtful and disrespectful connotations for a gay person. And professional athletes as role models that shouldn’t give out the message to the world that it’s ok to use that word and the word spreads by acceptance.
I digress. Because the point really is, why is it that female gay professional golfers are widely accepted so that there is an almost cultural association? This blog has chronicled some of my own experiences on my long golf journey, but one that I found hard to laugh off was this. A man once thought it was funny to speak to me thus:
“You like golf. Youse one of them dykes on spikes then? Ha ha ha ha ha”
The triple whammy of sexist, homophobic and ungrammatical. I calmly answered him truthfully.
“I also like the Eurovision Song Contest. But I am still straight”.
But for those who are gay amateur golfers in the UK there are three golf societies where they can play alongside other LGBT+ players – the Girls In Golf Society, the Irons Society, both London and South East based, and the BLAGGS society in Brighton.
To return to professional golf, when David Feherty declared to Brandt Snedeker on his TV programme that “there are no gay golfers on tour” Snedeker denied it. “I don’t believe that at all. I don’t think that a gay golfer is going to be that big of a deal, it’s not going to affect my life”. Perhaps not but it’s going to be a very big deal for the male professional who comes out and will affect his life going forward.
When Tadd Fujikowa, did finally declare himself gay, he was commended for his “inspirational bravery” but his coming out statement on Instagram is actually sad to read.
“I look forward to the day we can all live without feeling like we’re different and excluded… Pretending, hiding, hating who I was, afraid of what others would think. I’ve struggled with my mental health”.
Where is Tadd now? We never see him on television, certainly he has kept a very low profile since.
In 72 jurisdictions around the world it is still a criminal offence to be a LGBT+ person in a same sex relationship. In 11 of those countries the death penalty applies. One of these countries is Saudi Arabia where the Saudi International golf tournament was held three weeks ago. Another difficulty for any male pro who willingly comes out, he certainly couldn’t have any association with the tournament with its enormous prize fund or anything tomdo with its sponsors. The bottom line for not coming out is clear. There is too much money at stake, too much to lose. So the closet door stays firmly shut.
This is the one scenario in golf where it is much better to be a woman than a man. There is more acceptance, more freedom to be oneself, more liberation. And that’s something for the men to think about.