ABSTRACT

Like gay fathers (Barret & Robinson, 1990), the idea of a homosexual athlete clashes with the stereotype of gay men and lesbians. The notion of a gay man as a physically strong and gifted athlete who can be nonsexual while having physical contact with heterosexual men is a challenge for many people. Our nation’s discomfort with homosexuality in general does not leave room for the kind of idolization and positive image that accompanies successful athletes. On the other hand, for a lesbian to enter the world of sports does not seem quite so revolutionary and, in fact, many women athletes are able to become successful in spite of their lifestyle. Tennis stars like Billie Jean King and Martina Navra-tolova seem to be able to maintain a following in spite of the often negative publicity that accompanies their openness. Like other public figures, most gay professional athletes keep their gay lives carefully hidden out of a fear that coming out will destroy their ability to maintain their careers.