Brennan Bastyovanszky, 42, has played rugby since childhood and loves the sport — except for what he describes as the prevalence of homophobic language within mainstream clubs.
So early this year, he helped revive the Vancouver Rogues, a rugby club inclusive to players of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
The club secretary says he has heard a lot of homophobic language from teammates during his 25 years as a rugby player in B.C., Ontario and Sydney, Australia.
"Most people at rugby clubs don't like hearing that kind of language. It's really a small portion of the people that will still make insensitive and inappropriate comments," he told host Stephen Quinn on CBC's The Early Edition.
"But the thing is that a lot of people just go along with it," he continued. "The reason why it persists is no one in the club has actually been told that they're responsible for setting the culture."
Bastyovanszky says many LGBTQ and even straight players leave rugby clubs as a result of the toxic behaviour.
"There were even occasions when I was confronted, physically threatened by people on my own team," said Bastyovanszky, who later joined the Sydney Convicts, which describes itself as the first gay and inclusive rugby union club in Australia.
"It's always been ... difficult at times. But ever since I came out and found that gay rugby has a huge following ... I feel safe and comfortable being myself in rugby now."
He decided to revive the Vancouver Rogues, which had been active from 2002 to 2008, after returning to Vancouver early this year and found that the Bingham Cup, the biennial world championships of gay and inclusive rugby, was being held in Ottawa next August — and there wasn't a team representing the province.
"B.C. is a cultural heart of rugby in Canada, and also there's a huge queer community here, so it would be a shame if we didn't have representation [in the tournament]," he said.
Michael Blais, 45, joined the Vancouver Rogues this summer and has practised with the team once or twice every week since. He says as a straight man in a polyamorous relationship, he appreciates the club's accepting culture.
"We all get to be ourselves a little bit more without having to be guarded," Blais said. "We all know everybody's gay, everybody knows that I'm polyamorous … there's no hiding."
"It's amazing seeing smiles on their faces … it's an amazing thing to watch from the inside."
LISTEN︱Brennan Bastyovanszky on why he revived the Vancouver Rogues rugby club: