An issue that is currently one of the many topics at the forefront of society as well as American life is the idea of being gay and how things, ideals, and mindsets are changing in the world when it comes to the idea of how to treat gays as well as their positions in society. However despite all of the progress that has been made for the LGBT community, the whole idea of being gay still is taboo. In the private sphere for some families it still shakes the whole family if a relative comes out of the closet and reveals that they are indeed gay or lesbian. Take this statement, and amplify it by one hundred, when this same revelation is made in the public sphere, more specifically in the realm of sports.
It is no secret that sports, in the mind of many, is a field for men and not just men, the strongest, the most aggressive, the most ruthless and intimidating men to be able to come out, show their skills and entertain the masses. Which is why, despite the progress that we have seen for the LGBT community, an athlete being gay in this day and age is still a revelation in which the world cannot and many times refuses to accept. Homosexuals cannot publicly be an athlete is probably a statement that would be very well supported if asked. Apparently, in the minds of the masses as well as athletes and people in the realm of sports in general one’s sexual orientation affects their skill in physical activity, two separate things that I still have yet been able to connect to one another.
The blame however, does not only fall on sports or even athletes themselves solely in my opinion. Sports, especially contact sports such as football, basketball and hockey as stated earlier are considered innately masculine. The pervasive idea when it comes to homosexual men, especially, is that they are innately feminine, soft, weak and frail. Clearly based on this statement we can see that what makes a true athlete and one that is truly capable of expressing athleticism is completely opposite from the idea of what the homosexual man is. The popular belief that all homosexual men are the girly, super feminine, in your face type of gay is one that has followed all gay men forever, even being labeled to myself who happens to be a black gay male in America. While this type of gay does exist, the label does not define every homosexual male in the world. Just like there are various labels one can affix to various people who consider themselves heterosexual, such as, “girl-next-door”, “nerd”, “jock” etc. these same labels can be used to describe members of the LGBT community as well. There are gay jocks, gay nerds, hell your favorite football or basketball player could be gay, the most important thing to take away from this is that sexual orientation is not a reflection of personality or personality traits. People are not defined by their sexuality, and they are much more than who they decide to lie with at night. Using sexual orientation to define a person in my opinion is what keeps many people “in the closet” both male and female as a whole, due to them wanting to be accepted and judged based on the content of their character not who they love (since, contrary to popular belief, homosexuality is not a choice). On a larger scale, using labels separates people and as a result breeds discrimination between groups.
In the realm of sports, one of the most sacred places for athletes is the locker room. Here athletes are with comfortable and build camaraderie with their fellow teammates. They joke around, they talk about day-to-day things such as their sexual conquests, and sometimes they even gay-bash. The locker room is probably one of the single most areas in which “in the closet” athletes feel the most comfortable in not because they can not handle themselves around other men but because they have to deal with being taunted and ridiculed about a part of themselves that they are aware of yet have to hide which can lead to these individuals being affected on a psychological level. Former baseball player, Tyler Dunnington, who was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2014, who played with the Gulf Coast League Cardinals, a team affiliated with the St. Louis Cardinals, for one season decided to quit the game he has loved all of his life due to gay-bashing. In an open letter to Outsports, he detailed his experiences with gay-bashing for many years that he endured while in both college and the minor leagues at the hands of both teammates as well as coaches. “I was one of the unfortunate closeted gay athletes who experienced years of homophobia in the sport I loved. I was able to take most of it with a grain of salt but towards the end of my career I could tell it was affecting my relationships with people, my performance, and my overall happiness.” He even went further and revealed that he has heard coaches and players discuss killing gays, which led him to be miserable playing a sport that he has loved all his life which led to him quitting ultimately for what he believe was his sanity. An article I found went even further to prove the hate that is bred within the locker room, in which the author of the article went as far as stating that athletes such as Michael Sam and Jason Collins (both who were previously closest athletes) were poisoning sports as a whole. His reasoning being that Sam made comments saying that locker room gay-bashing jokes are “ignorant, and uneducated” and that the locker room should be protected for being the last true places for men. As seen with Dunnington, gay-bashing can harm these athletes and even outside the sports realm gay-bashing leads many regular people to go as far as committing suicide. A person whether out or in the closet should not have to deal with being taunted and ridiculed for who they are, especially when they did not make the choice to be the way they are. It is not fair for people who identify with the LGBT community to be treated as if all we are is our sexual preference and as a result we cannot be comfortable with ourselves otherwise face criticism from society. Wake up world, gay people are here, we have many different backgrounds, personalities and traits that define us, and we aren’t going anywhere.