Trae’ Robinson is a senior co-captain of the track and field team at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and has been out as a gay athlete since he was a freshman. Despite enjoying his time on the team, he said he’s had to regularly endure hearing gay slurs uttered by other athletes.
“It’s just disrespect,” Robinson said in an interview with Nick Karpinski of the school’s newspaper, “The Hawk.”
“This type of terminology has been embedded in them for so long that they just spew these words into the atmosphere without even catching themselves.”
Robinson, who runs the longer sprints between 400 and 800 meters, detailed the often casual use of gay slurs among athletes on campus, not directed at him but just part of the jock culture.
Robinson, who has been openly gay since freshman year, has worked diligently during his time as an athlete at St. Joe’s to ignore the homophobic comments he said he has heard in the men’s locker rooms and other areas of Hagan Arena. Robinson said they were not directed at him specifically, but he did his best to avoid being near or interacting with athletes who used homophobic language. ...
According to Robinson, homophobic comments in Hagan Arena’s public and private spaces ranged from “casual” to “aggressive,” all occurring in athletes’ interactions with each other.
The article delves into how the homophobic language he heard during his time at St. Joe’s came so naturally to other athletes and how it made him angry and yet also caused him to withdraw at times (“I always try to have my [headphones] on as well,” he said. “I use them to block out the noise”).
One example he cited came in his freshman year.
One day, during the fall of his freshman year, Robinson recalled an interaction when he happened to be walking through a common locker room area in the arena. He observed a lacrosse player snatch a towel from a teammate who had just stepped out of the shower. Other members of the lacrosse team were also in the locker room. Robinson said he did not have his headphones on, so he heard the player whose towel was snatched shout back at the towel-snatcher.
“This person yelled at the top if his lungs, ‘What do I look like, a fucking faggot? I don’t like this shit. Stop treating me like a fag,’” Robinson said the player shouted.
Robinson decided to finally speak out publicly because, “Enough is enough. I told myself, ‘Why are you caring so much for people who clearly don’t care for you?’ I want to be the person to speak up, to help others and not be scared. I want to be that voice.”
He recorded a YouTube video about the challenges of being a Division I athlete and in it briefly discussed the homophobia he witnessed during his four years at St. Joe’s.
His experiences mirror what so many LGBTQ college athletes have faced and how homophobic language is corrosive, even when athletes called out about using it say they meant no harm or will even apologize to a teammate they later found out was gay.
Robinson’s coach and the school’s athletic director say all the right things in the article about how offensive homophobic language is, but it ultimately is on them to fix things since they have the power to do something about it. Good on Robinson for speaking out.