Matt Johnson loves sports and always has. Even when he realized he was not ‘good enough’ to play professionally, he managed to keep himself in the game and became a sports photographer.
‘Sports has always been in my blood, I started in the swimming pool doing laps and graduated to tennis,’ Johnson told Gay Star News.
‘But when I realized i wasn’t good enough, I started thinking about ways I can be involved with what I’m passionate about.’
‘Photography was perfect.’
He started shooting local soccer leagues, even landing a job as photo editor at the Australian Open tennis tournament. But soccer – especially shooting the Australian women’s national team, The Matildas- has become something he loves doing.
Johnson picked up a regular gig shooting men’s professional A-League games in the southern city of Melbourne.
‘Hey gay boy’
He enjoys his job but a recent job left him ‘paralyzed’.
While shooting a game between teams Melbourne Victory and Newcastle Jets, a comment from someone in the crowd stopped Johnson dead in his tracks.
‘Hey gay boy… hey gay boy, did you enjoy the game?’ a man in the crowd yelled out to him.
Johnson who describes himself as ‘comfortably gay’ couldn’t believe what just happened. But he knew that it would become a ‘seminal moment’ for him.
‘I generally thought I’d built up a rock solid exterior that nothing could penetrate,’ he said.
‘But it completely paralyzed me and I was shocked by that.’
The freelance sports photographer had not experienced any homophobia during his years in sport. Johnson also knew the man threw the slur at him to hurt him.
‘It was the way it was said, that tone that suggested I derive enjoyment not from the quality of game but from looking at men.
‘That made me feel disgusted and even disgusted with myself in a way.’
Let’s make sure this does not happen again
Not long after the incident, Johnson took to Twitter to share what had happened.
It’s something I’ve always felt anxious about, and last night, it finally happened. I got subjected to homophobia while simply doing my job. But if adversity’s taught me anything, it’s to always try and find light in the dark. 🌈 pic.twitter.com/01lAszL1yU
— Matt Johnson (@matte_johnson) January 12, 2019
‘I realized soon after that this was almost of a seminal moment for me,’ he said.
‘It’s something I felt like I should inform people around me about. I thought if this happens to me who is comfortably out and is quite sure of themselves. what if it happened to someone less sure of themselves. What impact could that have on them.’
Not long after his tweet, a senior manager at Football Federation Australia gave him a call. She promised the FFA continued to work hard a making the sport more inclusive.
At the time of writing the clubs and arena have not reached out to Johnson.
He wants people to know that even though Australia recently legalized same-sex marriage, the LGBTI community still faces a lot of discrimination.
‘I’m trying to be fierce and fabulous and be the best the person I can be moving forward,’ Johnson said.
‘I feel like I’ve developed a hardened skin and I don’t get as phased by this thing anymore, but sports media is where I’m envisioning where I’m going to end up full time
‘That’s the thing that keeps bringing me back.’