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Gay Author Discusses Potential Impact Of Out Athletes

HuddleIt is generally assumed that when big stars or public figures come out, it makes it easier for younger generations to do the same. Author Eric Anderson, a former high school coach whose coming out made headlines in the 1990s, says he's not convinced that the case, particularly when it comes to sports fan.

Rather, he thinks a sports figure's coming out will have more of an impact on older fans. That is, of course, assuming an athlete still. From Anderson's commentary at The New York Times:

It’s hard for me to suggest that gay public figures have a moral obligation to come out. Personally, I wish they would, however. It is a long-standing sociological finding that when liked people come out, it reduces prejudice. I’m not convinced that an openly gay sports star would have much impact on today’s youth, but it might make a difference for those who grew up in a more homophobic generation.

Whichever gay male athlete comes out first, he will find himself similarly sought by the media for input on all types of L.G.B.T. matters. Only after a few professional male athletes come out will the media care less. Future openly gay male athletes will have to rely on athletic talent to earn celebrity status, not their sexuality.

This assumes, of course, that an athlete comes out while they're still playing their field.

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  1. Only yesterday I was listening to a podcast of one of Clive James' BBC Point of View talks in which he spoke about non-white athletes frequently bearing the burden of expectation to be unimpeachable spokespeople for a group. Now there's enough that this is no longer an issue, but the same model holds for each new group that is being held up for public scrutiny.

    Posted by: MikeW | Jul 2, 2012 1:37:18 PM

  2. Gareth Thomas did come out while still playing, and yes, rugby is a professional sport. As for professional American football, I predict the first one will be a quarterback for a northeast area team.

    Posted by: patrick | Jul 2, 2012 1:46:37 PM

  3. the issue with gay athletes is that there is, unfortunately, an apparent mentality of "i'll wait for someone else to do it first"

    the only problem is that if everyone says that then nobody does it. kudos to those who have, and i encourage more to follow suit.

    if one truly wants out world culture to get a great understanding of the diversity of our communities it is incumbent upon us all to Come Out, and live out, visibly

    if we don't, as individuals, represent ourselves as members of the gay communities, then nothing changes.

    help out. come out.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Jul 2, 2012 1:55:45 PM

  4. Saw an interesting comment re: You Can Play, that it may be more effective for (if it's feasible) multiple active players to come out collectively to ease the inevitable media scrutiny on the individuals involved.

    Posted by: dex | Jul 2, 2012 1:56:54 PM

  5. Does anyone know of MLB still has a "morality" clause? It states that the contract is null and void if the player does anything considered "immoral" or puts MLB in a bad light. Being gay was always considered part of this. I know a gay player that was impacted by this.

    Posted by: tom a | Jul 2, 2012 1:57:22 PM

  6. Ya just had to go and use a picture of the Packers, didn't ya? Subtle.

    Posted by: johnny | Jul 2, 2012 2:16:22 PM

  7. Tom A,

    I don't believe that is in there anymore, but if it is I can't see it being applied. The backlash they would receive would be massive.

    Posted by: Mark | Jul 2, 2012 2:17:55 PM

  8. Time to resurrect Ben Affleck's screenplay for "The Dreyfus Affair"?

    Posted by: NaughtyLola | Jul 2, 2012 2:26:55 PM

  9. ....."that it may be more effective for (if it's feasible) multiple active players to come out collectively to ease the inevitable media scrutiny on the individuals involved."

    not just sports figures, literally EVERYONE.

    that's the whole point about the need for us to Come Out - the more of us that do it, the easier we make it for each other. the reason it's such a self-serving "choice" to remain closeted is that it actually does put extra weight onto the shoulders of others, who are forced to take up the slack.

    the world cannot, and will not, disown 20 million sons and daughters en masse. people keep secrets, people hide their shames, and progress doesn't happen - when we come out to everyone in our lives, we wake them up. the dialogues happen. families and friends talk and realize that OTHERS know, love and are related to LGBT people, too. thus, the fears and shames go away.

    we're all in it together. sports world and every other subgroup too. when we stand together, we win. unfortunately, we still have too many adults refusing to stand and insisting that others do that work for them. that's not how we win this culture war.

    invisibility is the enemy.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Jul 2, 2012 2:50:48 PM

  10. While I doubt anything thinks being gay will impact one's ability to be an actor (except perhaps the romantic lead roles), being gay is seen as incompatible with athletic prowess, so an out athlete would certainly counter that perception. This probably applies to gay athletes far more than lesbians.

    Posted by: anon | Jul 2, 2012 3:21:23 PM

  11. Interesting article. It reminds me of Bob Mould (Husker Du, Sugar, solo stuff) who came out and was totally unprepared for the media scrutiny he got, he said some really dumb things that he later retracted.

    "if one truly wants out world culture to get a great understanding of the diversity of our communities it is incumbent upon us all to Come Out, and live out, visibly"

    Ah, BullyKiwi, living his safe bourgeois life in Toronto, imploring people in Saudi Arabia, Myanmar and western Africa to come out! come out! What's some dead gay men to him, he'll still be able to blog from the safety of Toronto and screech at everyone to come out!

    "the world cannot, and will not, disown 20 million sons and daughters en masse"

    The hell it can't. How many girls in China are living horrible lives because they were born female? Human cruelty knows no bounds, no limits.

    "when we come out to everyone in our lives, we wake them up"

    Or: they totally reject you, cut you out of their lives completely and make sure you are utterly alone in this world. Christ, do you even read the blogs you post on? How many stories do you need to read of kids/adults coming out and then the family either changing the locks on the doors or just up and moving away? I'm lucky, my parents were cool after the shock wore off, but I'm not naive enough to think everyone else is so lucky.

    "if we don't, as individuals, represent ourselves as members of the gay communities, then nothing changes"

    Well, considering how badly I've been treated by the "gay community" at times because of things like not caring about Madonna at the silly end > having the wrong body type at the serious end, the "gay community" can get stuffed for all I care. You're a perfect example of someone I wouldn't want to spend 30 seconds around, let alone consider you part of my "community", just because we're both homosexual.

    We're not a community at all, we're multiple subcultures that only have one thing in common: being attracted to the same sex. Rich white A Gays living in mansions in the Hollywood Hills have ZERO to do with poor gay black dudes living in Compton.

    Posted by: Henry Holland | Jul 2, 2012 3:53:24 PM

  12. Oh, Henry. Don't you know kiwi is going to ignore the sense of what you say (and you have some good points) and instead lambaste you for not showing your face, URL, home address and phone number?

    Posted by: johnny | Jul 2, 2012 4:09:49 PM

  13. Posted by: johnny | Jul 2, 2012 4:09:49 PM

    *Screech! Screech! Show the URL! Show the URL! Screech! Screech!*

    Posted by: Henry Holland | Jul 2, 2012 5:02:04 PM

  14. or Henry could get over his obsession with me (flattered, btw) and be intellectually honest.

    why are you talking about Saudi Arabia and Myanmar? Do you live in either place? don't think so.

    so, what's the issue? if those of us who live in North America, who are grown adults who are secure in our identities cannot Come Out, what hope and help do we give to those overseas?

    i know you have an ardent obsession with me. it's ok. i'm used to it. but let the blood rage out of your groin and neck ( imagine you typing with one hand whilst furiously masturbating with the other. it's an ugly image, but hey, it's obvious you get off on this).

    i'm not talking about kids. i'm talking about adults. grown adults. grown adults who have an awareness of the responsibility they should have to open the doors for the next generations.

    and i call your bluff about "being treated badly for not liking Madonna" - that's what closet cases say to give excuses for not growing a pair.

    i don't live in compton nor a rich white hollywood hills house. i do, however, spend half my time in brooklyn where us LGBT people of all backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities and "types" manage to bond, share experiences, and live a rather wonderful life as a collection of communities.

    it's rather wonderful.

    and don't worry. you don't ever need to spend more than 30 seconds in my presence. as long as you're in the closet your brand of self-hating misery won't be bothering any of us who live open, out and authentic lives.

    i know not everyone is lucky enough to have parents like mine. that's why i make a point to be Out - visibly and vocally. so that i pass up no opportunity to give a face and name to who we are, and can be, as a Community.

    one of the reasons my parents were so incredible with my coming out in my teens was that my parents knew other gay people. other adult men and women who made it their business to be out to people, including my parents. members of our church, our local community, and a few of my father's co-workers. he knew they were gay. so when i came out there was no reason for him to have some "fear" of "what it will mean that his son is gay" - he already knew gay people.

    this is how we win. you could very well save some young person's life by being a visible and vocal advocate for Equality, and by simply being known as an openly-gay man.

    that's why we Come Out - to help those who don't have the privileges and the luck to be born into the circumstances that we have. that's why it's important to give a face and name to the gay communities.

    now, not everyone (even grown adults) has the strength to do this. that's fine. just don't be angry at those of us who are. we're taking up the slack from the work you give excuses not to do.

    you're not an at-risk gay teen. you're not a frightened queer youth in Myanmar. you're a grown man moving goalposts to excuse not being Out, and to vent your anger at those who Are.

    the way we end this closet culture of young people feeling abandoned is to be responsible ADULTS - and that means no longer giving excuses to not help the future generations.

    we just had an incredible pride celebration here in toronto. marched with my family, held our signs of love, inclusion, hope and the message that change can happen, and there are people here who will help you make it happen.

    you're welcome, btw.


    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Jul 2, 2012 5:28:30 PM

  15. i will say, Anon, that when it comes to actors "public perception" is huge - and not just for "gay" (although it's a big deal).

    people get sick of Crazy - look at the dwindling-power of the Cruise/Travolta/Cage thing - it aint the gay rumours, it's the aura of "crazy".

    when it comes to pro-sports, actually, one's orientation or identity should have very little do do with it - your skills are empirical; you can either play well, or not. one may not want to cheer on the gay guy, but that won't stop the gay guy from being able to do what he's always done in his sport.

    when it comes to actors - it's all about boxoffice receipts -public perception colouring and affecting how the public SEES the actor, and thus the characters they play.

    Out gay athletes will not, and do not, suddenly lose their athletic prowess once they come out, nor does their 'new gay identity' in any way affect how a public perceives their skills - the skills speak for themselves; in the sport world there's no room for interpretation: you can either hit the ball or you can't, so to speak :-)

    but you're right. the way to change perceptions is to actually show the change.

    if we want people to think that "gay people are also _______" then those who are ________ need to stand up to be counted, and we'll have their back :D

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Jul 2, 2012 5:43:23 PM

  16. @kiwi you often make excellent points, sometimes not, but you are consistently insufferable

    get off your high horse

    Posted by: gomez | Jul 2, 2012 5:48:46 PM

  17. i'm not on a high horse. it only looks that way to those still crawling on their bellies in the mud.

    which specific point of my do you take issue with?

    i'm not going to apologize for having the balls that the trolls on this site will never have.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Jul 2, 2012 5:53:32 PM

  18. "why are you talking about Saudi Arabia and Myanmar?"

    Because you wrote this: "it is incumbent upon us all to Come Out, and live out, visibly". If you mean "ALL of us in safe liberal enclaves in North America" then write that.

    "and i call your bluff about "being treated badly for not liking Madonna"

    You don't know jack about my life, you troll. When I went to the LA Gay & Lesbian Center's "Coming Out" groups in 1985, I had people give me the stink eye and just turn around and walk away because I didn't care about Madonna. I had a drink thrown in my face by this older guy at one of the first bars I went to when I said "I don't care about Judy Garland, why should I?".

    Here I'd been brought up on the TOTAL LIE that the gay "community" was this welcoming, open-minded place and total strangers treated me like crap because I didn't like a particular pop singer! The same thing happened when they found I liked heavy metal and sports, it was unreal and it's happened to friends of mine who share the same interests. The alleged gay "community" is one of the most conformist groups I know of.

    To this day, some of the meanest, cruelest people I've ever met have other gay men.

    "as long as you're in the closet your brand of self-hating misery won't be bothering any of us who live open, out and authentic lives"

    You're pathetic, you really are. I came out to my parents and family in 1975, when I was 15. Had your harpie of a mother even spawned you yet? Since we lived in very small towns, my parents asked me not to tell anyone else because it would affect my Dad's business, so I didn't. It wasn't until we moved to Los Angeles in 1985 that I came out publicly, out to the G&L Center nonsense I detailed above.

    So, I've been out 37 years, are you even that old, you loser?

    "you could very well save some young person's life by being a visible and vocal advocate for Equality, and by simply being known as an openly-gay man"

    YAWN. I'm out to my family, my relatives, at work, at the freakin' supermarket I go to; I've done tons of work over the years for gay rights causes, been part of ACT UP LA and Queer Nation LA, marched and handed out leaflets more times than I can remember and on and on, I'm pretty certain I've done more to make young queer kids lives better than some loser in Taranta/Brooklyn writing a blog and screeching about URL's.

    "you're welcome, btw"

    BFD, you marched in a silly parade in a liberal enclave, how the hell is that helping the 15-year old gay kid in Racine or Tuscaloosa or Bakersfield or [insert any of a 100 places where being out = being dead]. Oh, I get it! It's telling them "You'll have to leave your family and the only place you've known and move to a big city if you want to be openly gay!".


    Posted by: Henry Holland | Jul 2, 2012 6:09:54 PM

  19. i call your bluff.

    trolls love to create elaborate fantasy lives. you're all the same.


    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Jul 2, 2012 6:15:15 PM

  20. @kiwi of course you respond in a way that exactly makes my point

    "me me me"

    Posted by: gomez | Jul 2, 2012 6:17:29 PM

  21. i call your bluff.

    Buwahahahahaha! OMG! BullyKiwi Of The Liberal Enclaves called my bluff! Whatever shall I do?!?!?!

    So answer my question troll droppings: how old are you?

    Posted by: Henry Holland | Jul 2, 2012 6:28:18 PM

  22. which specific point do you disagree with, Gomez?

    you didn't comment on the story. you commented on me. since *you* made it about me, feel free to be specific :D

    *elegant curtsy*

    one of the beautiful things about this day and age is that we can, actually, reach people in those small remote townships and cities. it's the beauty of the internet - i can't get to rural alabama, but my voice can.
    we can all reach those people if we make an effort to not hide. those of you who want to hide, by all means, continue to do so. but don't complain that others refuse to hide.

    you're welcome :D

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Jul 2, 2012 6:31:00 PM

  23. yeah. i call your bluff. keep laughing. won't change the fact that you're full of s**t and will continue to write lengthy obsessive posts about me. whilst masturbating furiously. i get it.

    and i recently turned 30. been Out since high school.

    now this is the part where you write a lengthy essay about how you've been Out longer than I've been alive. which you cannot, and will not, back up. because it's merely a part of your fantasy life created for this specific online avatar of yours

    you have my pity :D

    look, i get it - you like to compare yourself to at-risk teens in rural communities in order to justify your anonymity. just understand that *that* is the reason your family took issue with you being gay - not because you were gay, but because you were such a cowardly little wuss about it.

    to all the young people out there who are looking for role models, don't worry, there are going to be men and women who make it their business to live an open and visible life so we can open the doors for you. for some reason other adults give excuses for not doing the same; learn from their mistakes - a life in the closet drives you insane and makes you bitter.

    learn what not to be. :D

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Jul 2, 2012 6:38:02 PM

  24. "but don't complain that others refuse to hide"

    NOBODY is complaining that others want to be out, you're just making that nonsense up. What I, and others, are saying is that it's not a simple binary of Out/Not Out, there's all sorts of shades in between and that there's mitigating factors based on location, race, income status, family dynamics etc.

    But you don't bother with things like "facts" or "nuance" or "OMG! there's someone who's not ME, what's *that* all about?".

    It's the height of white bourgeois gay male privilege to insist that someone in diametrically opposite circumstances come out.

    And I'd DEFINITELY tell anyone wanting to come out, "Don't expect much from the 'gay community', that way you won't be disappointed".

    Posted by: Henry Holland | Jul 2, 2012 6:44:44 PM

  25. take a deep breath, stop masturbating, and answer this:

    what is your specific and applicable plan to change this anti-gay culture we're still living in?

    if you do not feel that grown adults should be Coming Out and helping the younger generations by putting a face and name to "What Gay Is" then what is your other specific plan of action to change hearts and minds and wake up people to the reality that they are, in fact, surrounded by gay & lesbian people that they know, love, admire and are related to?

    you seem to object to my statement that grown adults should be helping open the doors for the next generation.

    so what's your better idea or solution?

    specifics, please.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Jul 2, 2012 6:49:23 PM

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