Dustin Penner of the NHL is the latest to share problematic language on social media. | Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

To most people out there, the insinuation that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is homosexual is completely outlandish. The notion is so absurd, in fact, it isn’t even worth a second thought.

But that equation changes when the reckless rhetoric is emanating from the Twitter feed of a two-time Stanley Cup champion with more than 84,500 followers.

Ex-NHL forward Dustin Penner, who played nine seasons in the league and won championships with the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings, implied on Twitter this week Trudeau is a problem. When a follower called him out on the ludicrous assertion, Penner responded with homophobic insults, before saying he believes Trudeau is gay as well.

Brock McGillis, a gay former semi-pro hockey player who came out in 2016, quote-tweeted the thread and said those kinds of insults caused him harm.

While Penner’s unhinged Twitter presence makes Curt Schilling look dignified — the ex-forward frequently posts QAnon and conspiracies — McGillis says it’s naive to dismiss Penner’s attacks as the ramblings. He says those insults are still prevalent, especially in sports locker rooms across the world.

“I’ve been called those things. I’ve been called those things in 2017, 2018,” McGillis said to Outsports on the phone. “There’s 80,000 followers there. I think it’s important to shed light on it.”

Brock McGillis says homophobia can’t be ignored online.

McGillis has first-hand experience with the evils of homophobia. Though he didn’t publicly come out until 2016, his sexuality wasn’t a secret in the hockey community. The previous year, he was ousted without explanation from the association where he was coaching, and no longer allowed to work with its players. His competitors outed him, creating an intensifying drumbeat of whispers that became impossible to ignore.

The experience showed McGillis there’s still intense animosity against the LGBTQ community in hockey circles. He says it’s important to call it out.

“If you’re going to use [these claims] against the community, it has massive impact,” McGillis said. “When you put those two things together, that rhetoric is very dangerous, especially when you have 80,000 followers.”

An attempt to reach Penner for comment was unsuccessful, but those who want to read his views are treated to an unfiltered daily diatribe on his Twitter feed. He boasts quite an audience, and it’s important to remain vigilant.

“It’s great we get to shed light on good things and empowerment, but I think it’s also critical to move things forward that we don’t forget there’s still adversity out there,” McGillis said. “We have to continue to push forward and breakdown barriers and have those conversations with people who may be apathetic and think everything is fine for gay people today.”

Trans Lifeline can be reached at 877-565-8860. LGBT youth (ages 24 and younger) can reach the Trevor Project Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386.