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New Zealand: Rugby fan harassed for objecting to anti-gay slurs

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI — For 70 minutes, rugby fan Hannah Spyksma endured the homophobic taunts three other fans were spewing at players during an All Blacks-France test at Eden Park stadium last weekend.

When she did decide to speak up and asked them to stop, the three men allegedly began to target her with anti-gay slurs and even tapped her on the head and told her such language was part of the game, Pink News reports.

Spyksma's brother, who was at the game with her, put his arm around her, says Spyksma, who identifies as queer, but adds she felt alone in confronting the men because no one else in the crowd backed her up.  

Referring to the country's recent legalization of gay marriage, Spyksma says that's only a first step on the road to equality. "As long as that kind of language is still used, tolerated and condoned, then we’ve got a long way to go." 

According to Pink News, Tracy Morgan, a spokesperson for Eden Park, said patron harassment is not condoned, and the men could have been thrown out of the stadium. But Morgan is also quoted as saying that unless others around the men were also offended, the use of homophobic slurs alone may not have been a good enough reason to get them evicted, since it wasn't the stadium’s place to ”be the PC police." 

“If she’s saying that she was isolated and that it shouldn’t be acceptable, it’s not our job – I don’t believe – to try to move the cultural morals of society," Morgan added.

There is a text service at the stadium that allows people to report antisocial or offensive behaviour anonymously, the report notes. 

In the aftermath of the incident, Spyksma, who is a freelance journalist, wrote an open letter to her tormenters in The New Zealand Herald, calling "bullshit on your mindless slurs at Eden Park last Saturday night."

Spkysma wrote that the three were "on the ball" when they admitted they were "arrogant, ignorant and rather homophobic," adding that while she's all for "a bit of banter," enduring 80 minutes of the men calling match officials, players and coaches gay was "just degrading." 

She added, "It sends a message that in New Zealand, using homophobic taunts is the best way to communicate anger and frustration in sport. Ultimately what it says is that you can't possibly be any good if you are gay. And that hurts.

"Bigoted slurs are not a necessary part of any sporting game and I will not be made to feel like I should just go home if I point that out. How are we ever supposed to have an openly gay All Black or Black Fern when being gay is equated with being useless on the field? I for one would never suggest outing someone in New Zealand's mainstream sporting arena because the behaviour of my fellow patriots the other night is an indicator that we just aren't ready for that."

Noting that the men muttered that she must be a lesbian after she confronted them, Spyksma wrote that it's news to her that "speaking out against homophobia is a marker of sexuality."

"As for telling a lesbian that they should go home if they can't handle the word faggot, well perhaps the men behind me should have checked the demographics of who likes watching the footy," she added. "I'm sure they'd find a lot of loyal All Blacks fans are women who identify as being lesbian."

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