When Aaron Neich auditioned to be a cheerleader for the Penrith Panthers few people expected him to make the cut – not even himself. But the young man showed Australia that there's more than one place for men on the football field.
Neich admits that western Sydney may seem homophobic but he hopes to make a difference to that mindset.
"Hopefully with me coming out and getting all this media attention it will encourage other people not to give a shit because we are in 2009, not 1989," said Neich when he made the team earlier this year.
“Before I started dancing I used to play football and me and my family and friends would go to the Penrith Panthers games and there used to be a male cheerleader. Because I’ve always just loved dancing my whole life I would always say, ‘I want to be a cheerleader!’ And over the past few years there haven’t been any guys at all.”
Dancing and teaching acrobatics in St Mary’s, Sydney, 19-year-old Aaron is this year’s youngest member of the Same Same 25 and says he is honoured.
“It’s a privilege. Being out west and showing other people that you don’t have to hide being gay is great,” says Aaron.
Aaron says that he doesn’t believe in role models as such, and that “everyone is their own person,” however the young man says Britney Spears is someone he looks up to “as silly as it sounds.”
“With what she’s been through, she still comes back. She’s true to herself and that’s admirable.”
Aaron says he’ll have to audition again in 2010 if he wants to re-join the Pink Panthers, but says he may choose to travel instead. “And that’s not because I wasn’t accepted. It’s been great being on the field, I didn’t really cop anything and everyone was very supportive,” says Aaron.
The Same Same 25 is an annual celebration of the 25 Most Influential Gay and Lesbian Australians. They are publicly nominated, and chosen by a panel of community leaders.
For the past two years, the announcement of the 25 Most Influential Gay and Lesbian Australians has attracted widespread national media attention and focused on the achievements and influence of a varied and inspirational group of people.