Gender-bending Olympic boxer Harry Garside defends wearing dresses amid backlash 

Australian Olympic boxer Harry Garside admits he has been the victim of homophobia since he began embracing his feminine side.

By: Karim Zidan | 1 month ago
Gender-bending Olympic boxer Harry Garside defends wearing dresses amid backlash 
Credit: Instagram

Harry Garside has never shied away from exploring his feminine side. 

At the GQ Awards last year, the Australian Olympic boxer arrived on the red carpet shirtless with a black blazer, a pleated miniskirt, and a pair of black leather boots. The attire was on brand for Garside, who regularly poses on Instagram in a variety of gowns, dresses and skirts while flaunting his painted nails.  

And while the bronze medalist at the 2020 Olympic Games has no issues taking shots at archaic stereotypes, he recently revealed that his gender non-conformity has resulted in some backlash. 

“People have often questioned my sexuality and been quite homophobic towards me,” Harry Garside told TV personality Ian ‘Dicko’ Dickson during the filming of an episode of  I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out  of Here! (via Daily Mail)“I am a straight man and I am very comfortable in my own skin but I am lucky I have got thick skin but I am sure that if they are saying that to an athlete, who else are they saying it to.”

Challenging Gender Norms

The 25-year-old explained that wearing dresses and miniskirts was how he went about exploring more of his “feminine energy.” And while the experience has been rewarding, it has also drawn ire from his fellow fighters.  

Being in a masculine very male dominated sport, it raises a few eyebrows. It is different.”

Garside also happens to be one of Australia’s most successful amateur boxers in decades. He won six Australian National Championships, earned a gold medal at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, and earned a bronze medal at the 2020 Games in Tokyo. His victory marked the first time in more than three decades that an Australian had medaled in boxing at the Games. Prior to that, Australia had not medaled in boxing since 1988, when Grahame Cheney won a silver medal in the light-welterweight division. Australia has never claimed a gold medal in the sport. 

He also wore nail polish at the 2020 Olympics in yet another attempt to defy gender stereotypes. 

Outside of boxing, Garside also has experience as a ballet dancer, which he took up in 2019. 

“Boxing was my first love, so it will always hold a special spot close to my heart. I love how ballet makes me feel, though. I always walk out [from the studio] a little taller, with my shoulders just that little bit wider.”

Being an LGBTQIA+ advocate

Given his boxing acumen, Garside offered some advice to his critics online:”I guess chopping people down for being who they are, people need to be really careful about what they are saying, especially online — just because you can’t see someone, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t impact them.”

Harry Garside hopes that by speaking publicly about his gender-bending experiences, he can help dismantle some of the toxicity surrounding gender norms. He also hopes to be able to reach the young, insecure men who feel “not free in their life to express themselves.”

“I hope that I’m being a good advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community and helping make more straight people start questioning their beliefs,” he told Dickson. “I’ve taken off my mask and slowly attracted the people who love me that way – and I love it too!”

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About the author
Karim Zidan
Karim Zidan

Karim Zidan is a investigative reporter and feature writer focusing on the intersection of sports and politics. He has written for BloodyElbow since 2014 and has served as an associate editor since 2016. He also writes for The New York Times and The Guardian. Karim has been invited to speak about his work at numerous universities, including Princeton, and was a panelist at the South by Southwest (SXSW) film festival and the Oslo Freedom Forum. He also participated in the United Nations counter-terrorism conference in 2021. His reporting on Ramzan Kadyrov’s involvement in MMA, much of which was done for Bloody Elbow, has led to numerous award nominations, and was the basis of an award-winning HBO Real Sports documentary.

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