Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What a Man!

Earlier this year I started highlighting well-known straight men who, regardless of the risks to their careers or popularity, are taking very public stands for LGBT people and their civil rights. To date, The Wild Reed's "What a Man!" series has spotlighted three sportsmen (Ben Cohen, Sean Avery and Hudson Taylor) and one U.S. Republican politician (John Kriesel). Tonight the focus is on Australian rugby league footballer Nick Youngquest!

I should say first, however, that I think it's important (and helpful) to highlight celebrity allies such as Youngquest as their support for gay people and gay rights issues, including marriage equality, is a hopeful reminder that the world is indeed moving forward. Such support is a no-brainer for the younger generations. And, personally, I appreciate being reminded of this overwhelmingly pro-gay and pro-marriage equality stance of the younger generations – especially when, in my work, I often have to deal with attitudes and statements such as these and these. So, yes, I'm grateful for straight male allies such as Nick Youngquest.

On that note, following (with added images and links) are excerpts from AfterElton.com's June 2010 interview with Youngquest. Enjoy!


Even before professional rugby player Nick Youngquest struck up his public friendship with his out teammate Gareth Thomas, many gay men were already aware of the very handsome Youngquest.

After all, the 26-year-old Australian has appeared in rather racy pictorials for not one, but three gay magazines – DNA in Australia, Attitude in the UK and the French magazine Têtu. And those weren’t even the first time Youngquest had stripped down, having first done so in 2006 for a charity calendar in Australia that raised funds for National Breast Cancer Foundation.

But it is Youngquest’s recent friendship with his Celtic Crusaders teammate Gareth Thomas [pictured with Youngquest at left] – so humorously documented via their tweets – that has elevated Youngquest from just being a sex symbol for gay men to actually being an incredibly cool gay ally.

By showing he’s not only comfortable being admired by gay men, but in so publicly being “mates” with them, and even – gasp! – sharing a locker room with a real live gay rugby player, Youngquest has demonstrated that the homophobia of professional athletes like Australian rules footballer Jason Akermanis isn’t the only attitude in the sporting world.

AfterElton.com recently caught up with Youngquest via email to discuss being a gay sex symbol, how he came by his pro-gay attitudes and more.

AfterElton.com: How did you and Gareth meet?

Nick Youngquest: Gareth and I met this year when he came to the club we both now play for called the Crusaders. I remember the first day he turned up and everybody was in awe of him because he is such a big deal in the rugby world, especially here in Wales!

AE: What did you first think when he came out?

NY: I don’t actually remember hearing, “What about that guy coming out?” at the time and if I did would have thought “good on him.” I only found out he was gay when it was rumored he was coming to the club, and naturally because I have done gay magazines before, the boys were saying he was coming because he saw me on the front cover and this and that.

What he has done is so admirable and a decision I know now he is so glad he made. He is such a good guy and everyone in our squad loves having him here with us!

AE: Is he the first gay player you knew?

NY: To be fair there are always rumors, but yeah, he is the first guy I have played with or against that is [openly] gay. There was Ian Roberts in our sport in Australia who came out, but I was fairly young back then! I’m pretty sure Gareth is the only gay person who is out still currently playing in their chosen sport and that’s a massive thing for him and the world in general. He is such a good role model to the world.

AE: Are you aware how important the fact your friendship with him is so public? That it's groundbreaking, in fact? You are really showing the world that a straight athlete can be mates with a gay one and it's no big deal.

NY: In the big picture I do, but to me Alfie is a mate of mine, not because he is gay or anything else. He is such a good guy and since he arrived here he has done nothing but go over and above for everyone. He is so down to earth. I am happy that people can see that in sport being gay or straight or whatever doesn’t matter.

The world is such a fickle place sometimes and I am glad that myself and also Alfie are in a sport where our environment discriminates against nobody and that’s the honest truth. Although the jokes become very very funny at times!

AE: You seem incredibly cool with gay guys and very pro-gay. Where did you come by that attitude from?

NY: Yeah, for sure I have no problems with it at all. I have a lot of friends that are gay and have never been different! My ex was a dancer and she had lots of gay friends and it was always something I enjoyed about our relationship that we have friends from all different walks of life.

My family also shaped me so I guess it stems from there also. Not that mum or dad said always be nice to gay people or whatever, but just to [be nice to] people in general so I take people for who they are. That’s a trait I am glad the instilled in me, that’s for sure.

AE: I'm assuming you support gay marriage?

NY: I have never even thought about whether I do or don’t to be fair, so that has to be a yes. I don’t see any reason why two people who are in love can’t exchange vows and rings just as any other couple in the world. It’s not about being gay or straight when it comes to that. It’s about two people loving each other in my opinion!

. . . AE: Like Ben Cohen and David Beckham, you're fine with being seen as a sex symbol to gay men. When did you first realize so many gay men found you attractive?

NY: I have no problem with it at all, if they want to look at me that way that’s all good! I wish sometimes I got as much attention of the ladies as I do off the men to be honest, but it’s all good. The first time I realized it was after doing a calendar in Australia in ‘06 for breast cancer. It was a naked calendar and I think gay guys took a liking to it then. Flattering, but you can hardly put me in the same category as Cohen and Beckham though! . . .

. . . Oh, I don't know about that, Nick!

Actually, like both Ben Cohen and David Beckham, Nick Youngquest models underwear – and a masculinity that conveys both sensuality and vulnerability. I don't know about you, but I find that very appealing.

It's also quite queer in that it's the antithesis of that narrow and destructive “macho” understanding of what it means to be a man. As I've
mentioned before, to be queer is simply to be open and willing to go beyond (in thought, word and/or deed) the parameters of gender, race, heterosexuality, patriarchy, and other socially-constructed (or manipulated) concepts. I think it's good that young men like Nick are so open to embodying such a liberating queer spirit. It too is a hopeful sign that we're moving forward, away from limiting and destructive attitudes and stereotypes.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
What a Man! – Ben Cohen
What a Man! – Sean Avery
What a Man! – Hudson Taylor
What a Man! – John Kriesel
Rockin' With Maxwell
Ian Thorpe's "Difficult Decision"
The New Superman: Not Necessarily Gay, but Definitely Queer
A Fresh Take on Masculinity

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