Igor Benevenuto certainly knows how to make headlines.
The professional soccer referee in Brazil who recently came out publicly as gay is now claiming that 30% to 40% of professional soccer players are gay or bisexual.
Speaking with Der Spiegel, a German publication, he made the claim about professional soccer players and then doubled down.
“Thirty to forty percent of them are homosexual or bisexual, or have done something at one time with another man,” Benevenuto is reported to have said. “You would be surprised at just who is homosexual in this industry.”
He’s certainly right about one thing: I’d be pretty shocked if a third of professional soccer players were gay or bisexual. And frankly, I think there’s just no way.
In talking with women in professional sports, the number of gay and bi women in pro sports is very high. In the WNBA alone we know over a quarter of the players are publicly out.
Yet the idea that a third of professional athletes in men’s soccer are gay or bi defies all logic.
A 2019 survey of men in Brazil found that only about 2% of respondents said they were gay or bi, with about 95% saying they are heterosexual (the rest either didn’t know how to respond or want to respond).
The idea that 2% of Brazilian men identify as gay or bi — but 30% to 40% of the nation’s male pro soccer players are — is frankly impossible.
There is that kind of discrepancy on the women’s side, certainly in the United States. But there are other factors there that lead to that, including the culture surrounding women’s sports. The culture surrounding men’s sports is macho and at times homophobic — hardly a place you’d expect gay and bi men to flock to.
Benevenuto does seem to include in his analysis men who have at some point had some sexual encounter with another man. That number is certainly higher than just the 2% in Brazil. A study of American men about a decade ago showed about 3% of men who self-ID as heterosexual have had sex with another guy. My guess is that’s low, but it’s only a guess.
Still, it’s impossible to believe that a third or male pro soccer players are gay or bi.
We’ve seen wild claims before that have never panned out, including one guy who said he knew 20 gay professional soccer players.
I chalk this up to my “Provincetown theory.”
When I talk to people about Provincetown in the summer — including people who’ve been there once or twice — and I ask them how gay it is, the response is often something like “Oh it’s 90% gay” or “just about everyone there is gay.”
In fact, on a summer afternoon in Provincetown, it’s probably more like a quarter or a third. The year-round population there is only about 16% LGBT, and many straight tourists head to the tip of Cape Cod during the summer as well.
But when you’re used to your local town or city being 3-5% gay, suddenly a third feels like “everybody’s gay!”
(By the way, if you’re looking for that, the Fire Island Pines is actually 90% gay men.)
My guess is it’s the same here. There are, I’m sure a handful — maybe even more — of gay and bi men in pro soccer, including Brazil.
But a third? That would certainly be a shocker.