Neil Francis And Sporty Gays


Neil Francis’ comments about gay men and sport might smack of a desperate attempt at self-promotion, but we shouldn’t let them go unchallenged, says Rob Buchanan.


Former Ireland rugby lock, Neil Francis has said in an interview that, “gay men don’t play sport because it is too manly.” He made the statement on the Off The Ball Show on Newstalk. It was among a number of offensive comments that reek of a desperate attempt at self-promotion.

Members of the internationally successful Emerald Warriors, Ireland’s gay rugby team, or The Dublin Devils gay football team, might disagree, as might the many thousands of LGBT sportspeople and fans. But it’s hardly even worth dignifying such an embarrassingly stupid and shamelessly homophobic comment with examples.

Francis said that professional sport “by its very nature” was not something gay people would be interested in and added that he did not “have an interest in ballet.”

He said accepted that by making his comments he opened himself up to accusations of “stereotyping” but said he did not care.

There is a certain type of heterosexual man who is frightened by the notion that straight guys do not hold the monopoly on masculinity. This man perceives gender equality as a challenge to his manhood. He wishes to keep the doors to his masculine preserve closed to any he believes to be beneath him.

To quote far more lovable oaf, Homer Simpson, these guys “like their beer cold, their TV loud and their homosexuals flaming”. By stereotyping all gay men as effeminate queens they seek to neutralise us and maintain their place in what they fantasise is a hierarchy, with straight men at the top.

Francis’ comments may be cynical attempt at headline grabbing, but they are disturbing nonetheless, and we need to ensure they do not go unchallenged.

Homophobic stereotyping is a way to dismiss and dehumanise gay people. It is a distorted lens, through which the reality of our lives is willfully misunderstood. Unchecked, this type of casual homophobia can morph in to far less banal forms. The ugly truth is that a pervasive climate of low-level homophobia remains in some quarters of Irish society. Francis’ unguarded remarks reek of disdain and intolerance. Were they about black people or members of the Travelling community, questions would be raised in the Dáil.

Francis should be ashamed of himself for his immature and inflammatory comments. The fact that in the same interview he commented on how disturbing he found it that former Irish international David Corkery’s depression led him to consider suicide demonstrates the very different levels of compassion he has when it comes to gay people.

To express genuine concern over someone suffering from depression whilst simultaneously perpetuating the type of prejudice, which causes depression, and suicide, shows an appalling level of hypocrisy.

Ireland has moved on. Francis’ opinions are anachronistic, offensive and, most of all, untrue. While in the short-term this particular media stunt might have felt like the try that might resurrect a flagging journalistic career, if the huge backlash already on social media is anything to go by, it’s likely in the long run that Neil Francis’ juvenile, verbal diarrhea going to get him sent to the Sin Bin.


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