April 19, 2013

Giant news: Famous basketball player comes out of closet! Oh, wait ...

Sam Borden writes in the New York Times:
One of the most dominant basketball players in recent memory came out as gay Wednesday, casually mentioning the fact in an interview as if it were an afterthought. The news media and the sports world seemed to treat it as such, too, with little mention of the star’s sexuality showing up on social media or on message boards, and virtually no analysis of what the revelation meant for tolerance in society as a whole.

At first glance, it seemed implausible. After all, players, fans, coaches and league executives had been waiting with bated breath for weeks, if not months and years, to see if an active team-sport athlete would come out. So how could this sort of revelation be treated with such nonchalance? 
“Because it was a woman,” said Jim Buzinski, a founder of Outsports.com, a Web site about homosexuality and sports. “Can you imagine if it was a man who did the exact same thing? Everyone’s head would have exploded.” 
The aftermath of the former Baylor star Brittney Griner’s revelation in several interviews this week was muted, to say the least. Griner, who was chosen with the No. 1 pick in the W.N.B.A. draft Monday, did not treat the issue with any outward hesitation — in fact, she appeared to refer to her coming out in the past tense, as though it had happened before — giving a casual feeling to the entire episode. 
It was an odd juxtaposition: as there is increased speculation about whether a male athlete — any male athlete — will come out while still playing a major professional team sport, one of the best female athletes in the history of team sports comes out, and the reaction is roughly equivalent to what one might see when a baseball manager reveals his starting rotation for a three-game series in July. ...
There is, obviously, a more substantial history to female athletes’ coming out and continuing to play. Individual-sport stars like the tennis legend Martina Navratilova and team-sport players like basketball’s Sheryl Swoopes and soccer’s Megan Rapinoe are among the women to continue playing after publicly discussing their sexuality. 
But those players generally received a similarly subdued response, with nothing close to the expected surge in attention that figures to follow a male athlete’s coming out. The reaction to Griner’s disclosure, then, was simply the latest example of a disturbing trend, according to some leaders of L.G.B.T. causes. 
“We talk a lot in the L.G.B.T. community about how sexism is a big part of what contributes to homophobia,” said Anna Aagenes, the executive director of GO! Athletes, a national network of L.G.B.T. athletes. “It’s disheartening when there are so many great role model female athletes out that we’re so focused on waiting for a male pro athlete to come out in one of the four major sports.” 
Context may not be the only factor in the ho-hum public response to Griner’s disclosure. Stereotypes that top female athletes are gay continue to persist, and that probably played a role in how the sports world responded to Griner, said Sherri Murrell, the women’s basketball coach at Portland State and the only openly gay basketball coach in Division I. ...

She continued: “I think we’re always going to be living in that bias. I think it’s getting better, but there is still that tag.” 
That persistent stereotype about female athletes does damage on multiple levels, said Patrick Burke, a founder of You Can Play, a prominent advocacy group for L.G.B.T. athletes. While a number of heterosexual male athletes, including the N.F.L. players Chris Kluwe and Brendon Ayanbadejo, have publicly supported the efforts of L.G.B.T. athlete groups, it has been much harder to find straight female athletes to speak out in support, Burke said. 
“In sports right now, there are two different stereotypes — that there are no gay male athletes, and every female athlete is a lesbian,” Burke said. “We’ve had tremendous success in getting straight male players to speak to the issue; we’re having a tougher time finding straight female athletes speaking on this issue because they’ve spent their entire careers fighting the perception that they’re a lesbian.”

Maybe the straight female athletes know that the stereotype that female jocks are disproportionately lesbian is true?

And, maybe, male jocks are disproportionately not gay? Could that possibly be?

Everybody treats this like it's a new question because nobody remembers anything. But, Sports Illustrated gave a lot of attention to homosexual athletes around 1975. For example, Former NFL player Dave Kopay came out that year, too. About the same time, 1968 Olympic decathlete Tom Waddell came out. In early 1975 SI's (arguably) top writer Frank Deford ran a two part extract from his biography of 1920s tennis great Bill Tilden. Deford said he wrote a book about Tilden precisely because he was gay ... and that so few top male athletes are gay. (Here are Deford's first article and second article.)

Here's my 1994 National Review article "Why Lesbians Aren't Gay," which points out the radical difference in sexual orientation of male and female athletes.


Anonymous said...

Bob Paris, 1983 NPC American National and IFBB World Bodybuilding Champion, Mr. Universe, came out as openly gay in 1989. At the time he was still active in bodybuilding competition, and while some nasty remarks were made by a couple of other bodybuilders (who ended up getting dropped by magazines and sponsors, etc.), Joe Weider and the bodybuilding establishment supported Paris, to the point of featuring him on a cover of Weider's Muscle & Fitness magazine.


IIRC there have been a few other prominent bodybuilders who have come out as well.

Anonymous said...

They should prevent lesbians from participating in sports as a kind of reverse affirmative action to combat stereotype threat.

Anonymous said...

The news that the top WNBA draft pick is lesbian may not be big news, but it's HUGE news compared to the newsworthiness of the WNBA.

Greiner's coming out has gotten about as much coverage as I'd expect to see of the WNBA announcing that they're going out of business.


Anonymous said...

The use of language here is cynical. Everyone knows that 'gay' essentially only refers to homosexual men, not women. So of course if the author opens the article in the way he does people will assume he's talking about a man. It's a cheap trick.

If 'gay' can equally well describe homosexual women then why not drop the L and just call it the BGT whatever?

Anonymous said...

Large, ugly female athlete is gay? Who knew THAT could happen?

Anonymous said...

A couple of years ago a cousin on a D1 women's basketball team said that every black girl on the team was lesbian or bi and the white girls were mostly straight. That's more than 2/3 of the team. Of course these women are used to it.

countenance said...

Stop the presses!

The top pick in the draft for a sports league whose players are heavily lesbian and whose fans are heavily lesbian is lesbian!

I can barely tell she's actually a woman. Mark Cuban wanted to draft her for the NBA, maybe this news will make him actually do it.

Some time ago, I thought there was something lesbiany about the WNBA when there wasn't frequent news about its players having to take those nine month sabbaticals.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 6:50:

You're wrong about the use of the word "gay.". Most people will use it to refer to either males or female homosexuals, as in "Rosie O'Donnell and Ellen DeGeneres are both gay." Gay is not straight, period.

Anonymous said...

In related news:

"Lesbian ex-basketball star is jailed for 'claiming that she was attacked by masked men who carved anti-gay slurs into her skin'"


"A former University of Nebraska basketball star convicted of lying to police about being attacked in her home by masked men who carved anti-gay slurs into her skin was sentenced Thursday to a week in jail and two years' probation.

Charlie Rogers, 34, who maintains that the attack last July did happen, cried and hugged family and friends as she left the courtroom. Neither she nor her family would comment after the hearing.

The reported attack provoked outrage and spread fear among Lincoln's gay community, and hundreds of people turned out for a rally that weekend outside the state Capitol. At the time, Lincoln was debating whether to adopt a proposed 'fairness ordinance' that would have banned discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation, and tensions were high among those on both sides of the issue."

Rob said...

Lesbian basketball star stages hate crime.

jody said...

you mean he's straight?

never would have guessed.

Anonymous said...

>Here's my 1994 National Review article "Why Lesbians Aren't Gay," which points out the radical difference in sexual orientation of male and female athletes.<
Not really, they both generally like to shag women!

Nick (South Africa)