“The First Fifteen” : Understanding the conspiracy of silence of gay rugby players in Aotearoa/New Zealand

by Roger Gerard Joseph LeBlanc

Institution: University of Otago
Year: 0
Record ID: 1299336
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10523/5468


To date, only three gay male athletes have ever come out publicly during their professional sporting career in team sports. This reflects the pervasiveness of homophobia in sport and its power to silence and render invisible gay athletes. Moreover, it leads to a number of important sociological, political, moral and philosophical questions. Research that seeks to understand the gay athlete’s perspective on the existence of silence and invisibility is made all the more pertinent as gay rights and equality are currently manifested within social institutions other than mainstream sport. In order to fill the void of knowledge regarding the silence and invisibility of gay men within mainstream sport, the questions: “What meanings from their perspective do gay rugby players give to their experience of participating in mainstream rugby?’ and “How do these meanings create barriers or opportunities for their survival in rugby?” directed this social phenomenological study of gay rugby union players in Aotearoa/New Zealand. The data arose from in-depth interviews. An emergent analysis of data found that players’ meanings of silence were predominantly informed by the fear of public opinion. The players’ negotiation of fear emerged as they strategically integrated all aspects of their identity into their everyday worlds. The key findings of this study transpired when the participants’ meanings of silence were located using a Conspiracy of Silence model which guided the research. The reconstruction of these meanings generated a better understanding of the Conspiracy of Silence phenomenon surrounding gay rugby players.