Rough, manly sport, part 3
“I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black and I’m gay.”
Jason Collins isn’t the first professional athlete to come out of the closet. But he is the first male member of one of the “major league” sports to come out while he is still playing in that league. For many reasons it shouldn’t matter. But as Martina Navratilova (who came out as lesbian while still competing in professional tennis years ago) asked, “How many LGBT kids, once closeted, are now more likely to pursue a team sport and won’t be scared away by a straight culture?”
The Atlantic has a great article about why sports journalist haven’t reacted much to any of the WNBA players who have come out over the years, while Jason’s coming out has prompted reactions ranging from publications congratulating him to a reporter insisting that God doesn’t approve.
The thing I found most interesting and troubling in the Atlantic’s article is a quote from a spokesperson for the gay student sports advocacy group, You Can Play. He talks about how incredibly hard it is for them to find straight female professional athletes who will join any of their campaigns. Straight women athletes spend so much energy battling the assumption that they are lesbian, that they don’t want to do anything that might imply they are.
And the reason people assume that woman playing basketball, softball, soccer and the like “must be” lesbian is because basketball, baseball, football, and hockey are considered the epitome of masculinity and machismo. Which is why so many people are threatened by the notion of a gay man playing those sports. And it is threatening. You wouldn’t have players issuing statements that “they wouldn’t be welcome” if they weren’t threatened.
Even the mild, “don’t they realize sex is private?” reaction is a sign of feeling threatened. If sex is private, why do straight athletes introduce people to their wife and kids? And before you say that marriage isn’t about sex, I want to point out that the group fighting most viciously to keep gays and lesbians from getting the right to marry argued in front of the U.S. Supreme Court just last month that the primary reason marriage needs to remain a heterosexual right is because only heterosexuals can unintentionally procreate. The argument doesn’t make any logical sense, but all of their arguments insist that the sole purpose of marriage is procreation, in other words, sex. And if you’re okay with straight male athletes being seen in clubs with women, dating women, living with women, getting married to women and have children with them, then you don’t sincerely believe that sexuality is private.
And then there’s the football player who was tweeting about how immoral and against god’s law gays are, which is why he doesn’t want any on his team. Because that player has been living with a woman to whom he is not married for a few years—a woman who he has been arrested for battering, and who has kicked him out of the house more than once for fooling around with another women. And why is he worrying about other people’s morality, again?
Those bad reactions should really be the only answer anyone needs to the question of why such announcements are needed. People shouldn’t have to lie about who they are. People shouldn’t feel afraid to be who they are with their own teammates. Everyone should be equally free to talk about their girlfriends, boyfriends, spouses, et cetera.
Since we aren’t there yet, you do have to consider who’s really the more courageous: the one gay guy on the team who finally is tired of living the lie, or straight guy surrounded by other straight guys who is threatened to the point of anger at the notion of having a gay teammate?