June is the month that we dedicate to celebrating our gayness—our pride for being who we are. Some commemorate how we’re really not that different from those who play for the other team, and others mark all the ways we are different.
We’re almost forced to look inward at what it means to be who we are. I find myself wondering how many GLBT men and women identify themselves, truly, as gay athletes. What does that even mean? Does it matter?
In sports, and for the gay athlete, there can be mental, emotional, and physical obstacles to getting involved. Gay men and women who would otherwise love to, for whatever reason, just don’t go out and do something athletic.
There is something about gays that blocks us from being the athletes we could be, maybe even want to be. This is especially true in the world of male athletes, because of stereotypes we encounter every day.
Do we ever ask ourselves: What is it about gay men and women that keeps us from participating in sports?
Why don’t more of us celebrate our athleticism with the same energy we celebrate our new jobs or our fancy new garden?
Why don’t more of us push ourselves as athletes to excel in our sport with the same force of will we apply to a Saturday night out drinking, dancing, and cruising, or staying up all night partying at the newest trendy club?
Why don’t we compete with the same drive that our straight counterparts—men especially—do, and why don’t we celebrate it?
Status and fear play a huge role in why gay men and women choose to play a sport or not. These reasons for and against fall into two basic camps.
The first is status. Some people will play because they think it’s a means to an end: “If I play a sport, I will be more popular, be invited to more parties, and being fit I will be more physically attractive, so I’ll have more sex.” This is the jock fantasy.
Obviously, I can’t speak for the ladies, but from my experience, too many gay male athletes barely consider themselves athletes for the sake of sport. It’s a byline to a M4M ad on Craigslist, or a stat on Grindr. Being an athlete for many gay men is a means to a wholly nonathletic end, and has nothing to do with promoting their sport or team.
They put as much work into being the guy who plays soccer, or the guy who plays rugby (yes, I said it), that they can’t “turn it on” while on the field, and strive to be the guy who is the best soccer player or the best rugby player, thereby losing new recruits who want to excel at the sport.
The second reason gay guys can’t or won’t be athletes is fear: of doing something wrong; of getting hurt; of losing or not being “man enough.” Playing a sport for fun, even at a socially competitive level, doesn’t get you more money, more renown, more things…so why look like a fool, or get hurt trying?
We march in Pride parades. We set up booths at the Pride festival. We send out a call to arms to get people to play our game. Do we take pride in that? Should we? I think we should take pride in removing these obstacles—overcoming our fears, and striving to be an athlete for the sake of honoring our sport.