Gorgeous KX Steelers player Alexis opens up about life on the team, his joyful coming out experience and how he coped when his school mates turned on him.
Here, we meet the very dashing Alexis, a 27 year guy who works in corporate law. In spite of his model good looks, the fella loves nothing more than getting down and dirty and throwing himself into a scrum on the pitch. ‘I joined the club a little under a year ago and really enjoy it,’ he tells us when we meet the whopping 6’3 fella. ‘It’s hard work. We train twice a week, with game days on Saturdays. It’s been a big commitment…that’s the aim anyway, sometimes life (or injury) gets in the way.’
Here, Lex explains why he thinks it’s still important to have a gay and inclusive rugby team, shares his joyous coming out story but also looks back to darker times at school which led him on to become the strong and successful man he is today!
Lex, you’re clearly pretty serious about the game. Have you always been in to sport?
I’ve always been active. My family are big outdoorsy people, so hiking, horse riding, skiing, canoeing, climbing, I was raised with all that stuff. I did martial arts for a few years, and I do acrobatics training, but never so much with the team sports.
Is there a good bond between the players.
An amazing one, from the moment you join The Kings Cross Steelers you suddenly gain a brotherhood of 200+ members, who’ve got your back and cheer you on, both on and off the pitch. I’ve found it to be an incredibly affirming environment to be in. There’s no ego, no ‘Mean Gay’ gossiping or A-Gay hierarchy, it’s all about supporting your team mates.
That’s great! Is it a great place for dating?
When I joined the club, I was in a relationship and now they’re my team mates, so I don’t think of them that way. But there are a few happy couples throughout the club and they’re super cute (and very understanding of one another’s training schedules).
Why do you think it’s still so hard for gay guys to come out in sport?
Personally, I think when we talk about it being ‘hard to come out in sport’, what we’re actually talking about is people hearing football fans chanting homophobic slurs – something that just doesn’t happen in rugby. It’s a much more respectful game, people sing team songs. I’ve never heard or witnessed any homophobia at a rugby match (pro or amateur), and when Gareth Thomas (the highest profile rugby player to come out) announced he was gay the rugby community was really congratulatory and pleased for him. But, there will always be arseholes who say something…we just get fewer of them in rugby.
Do you think the Keegan Hirsts, Sam Stanleys and Simon Dunns are great examples – are they inspiring?
Absolutely, each in their own ways. Sam’s spoken really smartly about a whole range of things. He’s a great guy and supports our club. Simon’s a friend of mine, so I’ll never hear the end of it if I do say he’s inspiring, but to other Aussie kids growing up in rural ‘straya where there are no gays…yeah, I’m sure he is. We’ve had the first wave of torch bearers, like Gareth Thomas, Martina Navratilova, Greg Louganis, Clare Balding, Billie Jean King, and we need that to continue for gay generations to come – but we need a mix of role models, from all sports, all races, like Michael Sam and Sheryl Swoops, and everywhere along the glittering LGBT spectrum. That’s why I celebrate Johnny Weir’s wonderful campery and flamboyance, he’s waving the flag, being great at his sport and totally unashamed of who he is.
Do you think it’s important to have gay sports teams?
Absolutely, as ‘gay culture’ and ‘gay life’ get more and more ‘mainstream’, I still think it’s important to be surrounded by other gay men and women, people who you don’t have to do any awkward explaining with or edit what you tell them about. The thing about joining The Steelers, is they’re just so welcoming, it’s a total acceptance of you as a person.
Will you be taking part in the Bingham Cup?
I am! My prep for Bingham took quite a hit as I was off from training for a couple of months with a torn shoulder ligament, but I was lucky enough to be called for a team and hope to make up for lost time and do my club proud. The International Gay Rugby community is quite close, so it’ll be fun to face off with friends from across the world on the pitch.
Looking back, when did you first realise you were gay?
When I was a little kid, really little, I had a crush on Wesley from the film Princess Bride and Jareth from The Labyrinth. I was lucky enough to be raised in a family where sexuality and gender was never taboo. When I was 6, I wanted a Snow White dress, my parent’s got me a snow white dress…but they did tell me off for getting it muddy and tearing it while climbing trees. So for me, it was just how I was, it was only when I got to secondary school that I realised I was the ‘other’ and that it had a name.
How long did you keep it to yourself?
Not very long to be honest. I’ve always been ballsy and not one to back down lightly, so when a bully at my school tried to shame me and called me gay, my response was ‘yeah, and what?’. In a second of hot headedness I’d come out in a class room at about aged 14 and spent the rest of my school time fighting. And not in a ‘fighting for gay rights’ protesting way, it was actual fighting.
What was your first gay experience?
I’m not sure to be honest. The two memories that stick in my mind, are just being struck by how beautiful Wesley was (again, from the film The Princess Bride) and having a crush on one of my school friends when I was in junior school. It was one of those infatuations where you just think they’re the coolest and want to be exactly like them.
Was it something you were worried about ? did you go thru the period of not wanting to be gay?
Never. My parents were always clear that they loved me unconditionally, supported me no matter what and were proud of me for being me. My parents are pro gay rights, my mother went on all the 80s and 90s demonstrations – I can remember being a little kid, folding and pinning AIDS ribbons in front of the TV, because my parents were fundraising for HIV. I was lucky to have that support network at home, because school was a battle.
Who were your gay role models?
Maureen and Jen, lesbian friends of my father who taught me to ski, John, Graham and Mick, friends of my mum’s. There were just always really friendly, happy older gay and lesbian people in my life, who were great role models – simply just because they’re lovely people and as I got older, they educated me on my gay history, what life was like for them. I can remember getting a lot of strength from conversations with them, hearing what they’d gone through and seeing how they’d come out the other side, unbroken, happy, successful people – the coolest of my parent’s friends. It gave me strength, and it gave me perspective.
Who was the person you were most worried to tell?
Probably my grandparents, just because they’re old. My Nan’s in her 90s, and my grandfather’s very country conservative. But it went so well, unbeknownst to me my family had already told them. My grandad randomly dropped it into conversation one day that he didn’t care that I was gay because I was a ‘stand up young chap, who made him very proud’, and one day my nan took my hand, held it, and told me she wanted nothing but love for me, and hoped I would find ‘a very nice young man” to make me happy. Both times I teared up, and counted myself lucky for having the family I do.
Who was the first person you told?
I can’t remember actually, it was probably my mum and dad. I remember my two older cousins dropping so many hints about how they would be okay if I was gay, and that they had gay friends, and that I could talk to them if I needed to…to which I played dumb, just for the amusement. Seeing them get more and more frustrated that I wasn’t catching on to their hints, eventually I burst out laughing and fessed up…they clipped me round the ear, called me a little shit for messing with them, and gave me a big hug.
How did the guys at school deal with it?
The group of boys that I was friends just totally froze me out. I went from being an unknown geeky goth kid with a small group of friends…to being that gay goth kid with zero friends. It was hell to be honest! My school was messed up, it was an incredibly old fashioned countryside school where the teachers still lamented not being able to cane students. But I refused to let it break me. Any time anything came my way – an insult, a punch, a stone – it went straight back with all the anger I felt giving it extra force. Eventually people learned not to mess with me, and it settled down, and then people grew up and matured. But I have the physical scars from hard fought battles, and a lack of mental scars to know I won.
Did you throw yourself into the scene?
I entered the scene very young, I was 15 when I met my first boyfriend in a club, he was ten years older than me, and a club promoter, so knew his way around and really looked after me (disclaimer: he thought I was 19…I lied to him about my age for quite a long time). He and his friends took me in, I felt very safe, very accepted and cared for. They gave me jobs in their clubs, and let me play at being a DJ, I made friends, and built a life for myself. I was really lucky with how nurturing everyone was, no one tried to take advantage, people genuinely looked out for me, which I know isn’t the case for everyone, so I’m always grateful for that.
Do you like the gay scene or are you bored of it?
Not so much bored, just unsure of where I fit in to it these days. It’s more that the scene feels very drug heavy, and I find that really alienating. I’m not one to preach zero tolerance for drugs, if other’s enjoy them and want to do them, that works for them, I just know they’re not my thing, so these days I just choose to take myself out of the equation.
Someone spiked my drink once, and that was a scary experience. It took me a really long time to get back in the water, and it’s never quite been the same since, you just always feel hyper aware, on high alert.
Do you think the scene is very superficial?
Yes and no, like all things in life, it is what you make of it. I’ve never set foot in clubs like RoomService, because the body fascism, narcissism and drug culture they promote, is my idea of hell. But, go to a club like Horse Meat Disco or Sink The Pink and it’s a completely different story, all sorts of people just enjoying themselves, attitude free and having fun.
Do you think you can meet the one on the gay scene?
Absolutely, the only block to meeting ‘the one’ is yourself. If you look away any time anyone looks at you, or you won’t smile or laugh because you want to be cool, yeah, that’ll make it pretty tricky. But if you’re open, smile, engage, be polite, then your chances are pretty good.
Is the gay scene a bit redundant now with all this integration we have?
Never, not for me anyway, and I hope the gay scene will never be redundant. No matter how accepted LGBT people become, I think it will always be important, and positive, to have LGBT majority spaces. They’re our community centres, our village halls, you remove them and people stop communicating and we lose our history, collective shared identity and support network. I’m sure the splintering of the LGBT community, the growing in-fighting are linked to the break down of the gay scene, as people become more and more splintered and removed from one another and we lose empathy for another. That’s why I find the Kings Cross Steelers so wonderful. It unifies us all, there’s acceptance and understanding no matter where you fall on the beauty, body type, race or masc spectrum.
You’re single, what’s your type? Do you friends matchmake you?
My type is ‘not a total prick’, and that’s about it. I’m only just out of a long relationship, so not quite yet, but hopefully they will when the time is right.
Have you had your heart broken?
Who hasn’t? I’m fortunate that none of my relationships in the past have been traumatic breakups. My first boyfriend (the one who’s ten years older) is basically family and joins us each Christmas, he and my mum get along really well. Sometimes you grow apart, and you stop being boyfriends and just become good friends, and that is really sad, but I always try to see the good and not let the sadness of a breakup spoil the memories of what was once there. Let the bad go, hold on to the happy.
We think homophobia is a thing of the past but have you ever been victim of it?
Age 15 I was hospitalised after being piled on by a big group of kids at school, who beat me up really bad for being a ‘fag goth’ and wearing black eyeliner and black nail polish (I idolised Brian Molko from Placebo and My Chemical Romance, okay?) That was pretty much the worst. But even then, as soon as I was able, I went back into school with black nail polish and eyeliner as a massive fuck you to the guys who did it to show that I didn’t care and wouldn’t change. I liked being me, I liked being a gay goth, although in hindsight, I didn’t look as cool as I thought…I mainly accidentally looked like Sharleen Spiteri from the band Texas. Not a great look.
Finally, there’s a lot of talk about the rise in HIV among young gay guys – have you always been wary about safe sex?
Always, and it’s criminal how the government still holds back on proper sex education in schools. Yes, we as a community need to play our part, but the government have raised successive generations who aren’t properly educated so healthy norms around positive rolemodeling in sex and relationships aren’t established early on…making it very easy for people to be pressured into things, or drunkenly try stuff out and get hooked, or mimic what they see in porn because that’s what they think they have to do.