I currently work as a columnist for INTO, Grindr’s new LGBTQ+ magazine. I write primarily about RuPaul’s Drag Race, as well as developing weekly essays on queer-themed TV shows like Rise and The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story. Additionally, I write a weekly movie column called “But How Gay Is It?”
Originally published in the Los Angeles Loyolan. For original, please refer to: Acceptance in sports: Not quite there yet – Los Angeles Loyolan.
In a country that once embraced gay-bashing and made bullying based on sexual orientation popular, it’s hard not to be proud of the recent swell of support for LGBT individuals in this country. Marriage equality is a cultural buzz phrase. The promise of the It Gets Better campaign seems to be coming true for so many young people growing into strong, confident individuals. And in the world of professional sports, NFL players are supposedly considering coming out.
Except, maybe they aren’t.
Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, long on record as a marriage equality proponent, told the Baltimore Sun last week that he knew of “up to four players” in the NFL who were in talks to come out together.
“It would make a major splash and take the pressure off one guy,” he said. “It would be a monumental day if a handful or a few guys come out.”
An announcement like this was guaranteed to make waves and have LGBT advocates hopeful for real change. So of course, it took all of one day before Ayanbadejo started retracting his statement.
“Potentially, it’s possible, it’s fathomable, that they could possibly do something together, and break a story together,” he told Anderson Cooper on CNN. “And one of them had voiced that he would like to break his story with someone else and not do it alone. … Not all these athletes are in the NFL. Some are in other sports as well.”
He might as well have said, “Hey, so everything I said yesterday? Forget about it. Never mind. My bad.”
Such developments are disheartening, particularly when the world of professional sports could really use a big push forward on the path to acceptance.
Boston University Professor Robert Volk once called professional sports “the last bastion of homophobia.” While I think that’s inaccurate (I’m pretty sure Virginia, which recently passed the Crimes Against Nature law banning sodomy, has “last bastion” status locked down), it does reflect an ugly truth about the heteronormative culture of sports: Things aren’t changing as briskly as it may seem.
Yes, there are allies like Ayanbadejo and Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe petitioning publicly for equal rights. And yes, there are plenty of teams, like the Boston Red Sox and the San Francisco Giants, that made It Gets Better videos to support victims of bullying due to LGBT status. But right now, all this amounts to is a more supportive public face. This begs the question: If this environment is so supportive, then why are gay players not coming out of the nearest closet they find?
The truth is that all the ‘It Gets Better’ messages in the world can’t take gay slurs out of locker rooms in a flash. The Ayanbadejos and Kluwes are incredible allies, but they are two men out of almost 2,000 in the NFL alone. Equality and acceptance are trending topics, but behind the curtain, we have no idea how well these values are truly espoused.
Athletes and pundits need to stop pretending everything is resolved already or engage in wishful thinking about groups of athletes about to come out of the closet. Instead, they should focus on tangible goals that will go a long way to creating the equal culture they so desperately want to believe is already here.In fact, professional sports figures would do well to pay attention to their college brethren. The NCAA took major steps forward with the release of “Champions of Respect,” its guide for creating a more accepting climate for LGBT individuals.
The guide is full of instructions and guidelines for working with LGBT athletes and coaches, it offers great suggestions for coaches and athletes, including educating themselves about LGBT issues in sports and monitoring the use of anti-gay slurs. These things may seem elementary to you and me, but for a culture that has long suffered from these issues, they really aren’t. If the guide is effectively implemented, it could signal real change in the college sports climate.
I get it, I really do: Equal rights for LGBT individuals are having a moment. I’m absolutely thrilled. The idea that we could see major steps forward on marriage equality as early as June is stunning to someone like me, a Texan kid who grew up wondering if there was anyone who understood how he really felt and would stand up for him. But attempting to catch up to the cultural trend in one fell swoop without going through the proper steps isn’t going to work. Equality is most effective when everyone understands not only the what, but the why.
Four professional athletes coming out together is an incredible idea, and one that, if it ever came to pass, would inspire so many LGBT individuals playing sports. But creating false hope, which I’m sure was not Ayanbadejo’s intention, doesn’t inspire, and it doesn’t really help create acceptance. Because the sports world isn’t there yet.
Originally published in the Los Angeles Loyolan. For original, please refer to: A different kind of Valentine – Los Angeles Loyolan.
Having a tough time finding that ‘perfect someone’ this Valentine’s Day? Bored with the ‘same old same old’? Do you feel like the opposite sex just isn’t cutting it anymore?
This Valentine’s Day, I challenge all straight-identifying, single Lions to try something new: experiment with the same sex. Sure, you may have never thought about it before, and it might not be your cup of tea. But maybe, just maybe, the idea has been there for a while, gestating in the back of your mind. You might be a lady harboring a girl crush on Mila Kunis. Or, maybe you’re a bro who secretly loves Ryan Gosling movies – or just Ryan Gosling.
1. Don’t restrict yourself to experimenting at LMU.
Take it from a guy who’s attempted to date among the approximately six openly gay men on our little campus: You’re better off away from the bluff. If you’re of drinking age, heading to the bars around UCLA and USC can reap some long-term rewards.
Then again, if you’re bar hopping and only queer for the evening, why on earth are you wasting your time anywhere besides West Hollywood? Eleven, Micky’s and Gym Sportsbar are all distinctly different but great bars with different styles, meaning curious guys will be able to survey several different flavors of dude.
Ladies, your bar options are unfortunately slimmer, but you can try out the Palms Bar for an all-lesbian experience. Then again, girls can also go to pretty much any non-gay bar and find at least a dozen drunk women looking to get Sapphic. Y’all will be fine.
2. Master the eye language.
Despite what you might think, not every homosexual is trying to get into your pants. So, you’ll have to learn the lingo, but lucky for you, it’s all in the eyes.
Ladies, I unfortunately can’t speak to this as well for you as I can for men, but the biggest tip I can give is to never approach someone before locking eyes across the room. Why? It’s actually universal to all sexualities: Think about if someone you weren’t interested in was trying to make eye contact with you. What would you do? That’s right, you’d turn away. So, if the eye contact sticks, that’s your signal to dive in. Don’t worry about the chase – if you’ve kept up eye contact, he or she is definitely interested. Go for the gold.
3. Above all else, have an open mind.
Like I said, experimenting isn’t for everyone. Some people just aren’t into it. For others, it requires an openness that can be difficult to muster. But if you’re interested in trying things out, make sure to really commit to it. Flirt it up and have a good time. Worst-case scenario, you wake up in the morning and think, “Well, never doing that again.” At least you tried something different. And maybe, just maybe, you wake up with the number of someone wonderful you might never have expected to date. That’s the kind of dream most people would kill for on Valentine’s Day.