And the hopes we pin on these pioneering athletes may offer some key lessons. Shortly after Collins came out, Brendon Ayanbadejo , former Ravens linebacker and advocate for marriage equality, explained the importance of his announcement on Meet the Press. Of course, given the sheer number of Americans who tune in to watch professional sports, athletes have an unprecedented platform to offer positive representations of LGBT people to large swaths of the population.
But Ayanbadejo got to the heart of why the importance of a figure like Jason Collins extends beyond the celebrity factor: "People think gayness has something to do with femininity when really we just need to erase that stereotype from our minds," he said.
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As many commentators noted, this helps explain why college basketball phenom Brittney Griner's casual "coming out" just weeks before Collins' was greeted with so little fan-fare. The belief that sports—and perhaps team sports particularly—are a masculine endeavor lingers even 40 years after Title IX ushered millions of American women into the game. And since for women, we think gayness "has something to do with" masculinity, we hold the opposing set of assumptions about female athletes: "In sports right now, there are two different stereotypes—that there are no gay male athletes, and every female athlete is a lesbian," Patrick Burke of the gay sports advocacy group You Can Play explained to the New York Times.
The news that Griner, who wore a white tux on her 6-foot-8 frame at the WNBA draft, is gay didn't fundamentally challenge our notion that sexuality has something to do with gender—and it just confirmed the stereotypes we had about women who excel in sports. As Garance Franke-Ruta put it , "Female professional athletes are already gender non-conforming. Male ones are still worshiped as exemplars of traditional masculinity.
Within this context, the hope is that a high-profile gay male athlete—or, more realistically, a few of them—could finally smash the stereotype that "gay" equals "unmasculine" once and for all. And, in fact, to some, Collins and Rogers don't have enough macho mojo to do the trick. Writing at The American Prospect , Joel Anderson argued that Collins' underwhelming performance on the court has taken away from the potential power of his announcement. The New York Times 's John Branch noted that Major League Soccer is probably only the nation's fifth-most popular league—and, at least in the American sports landscape, soccer players hardly have an uber-masculine image.
In fact, according to the Onion , soccer became the "world's first openly gay sport" in The real game-changer, Anderson wrote, would be if a player in the NFL, that bastion of "a certain kind of masculinity if not outright machismo, " came out. There's no doubt those are stereotypes that need unpacking.
Sociologists have long noted that homophobia is a fundamental ingredient of masculinity in modern American culture. In his seminal article "Masculinity as Homophobia," sociologist Michael Kimmel, author of Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men , argued that "homophobia is a central organizing principle of our cultural definition of manhood.
If a guy steps ever so slightly outside of gender norms, his peers will bring him back into line by calling his heterosexuality into question which implicitly challenges his gender.
The pressure to prove and re-prove hetereosexuality is part of what it means to "be a man"—and it pushes men to embrace both homophobia and hypermasculinity. Homophobia, then, is not simply social disapproval and discrimination against gay people, but an entire cultural structure that disqualifying all but the "most virulent repudiators of femininity" from "real manhood"—in the process upholding gender inequality and maintaining a hierarchy of men based on sexuality, race, class, ability, and so on.
It's entirely understandable, then, why Collins took pains to highlight his masculinity in his Sports Illustrated article announcing the news. But I've always been an aggressive player, even in high school.
Am I so physical to prove that being gay doesn't make you soft? Who knows?
That's something for a psychologist to unravel. After all, while it's certainly true that not all gay men are "soft," it's also true that some of them are. The gay guy who would rather be belting out some Barbra Streisand than shooting hoops is not just a stereotype. He exists, too. He's probably been spared the awful loneliness and anxiety of living for 34 years without being open about his sexuality to those closest to him, as Collins did, but he probably had less of a choice in the matter. The first time he had an anti-gay slur hurled at him may have happened before he even came out to himself.
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In fact, like year-old Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover , he may only be perceived as gay. Mainstream gay rights advocates seem largely optimistic that the visibility—and acceptance—of gay male athletes like Collins and Rogers will help that guy, too. Even the jocks are gay. And there's a message to bullies: gay kids are not second-class citizens. But it's not completely clear that showing that "even the jocks are gay" necessarily makes things better for those guys gay or straight who don't so readily conform to traditional masculine norms.
Since gayness and femininity are still so linked, it's nearly impossible to determine what homophobia's driving factor is. As Kimmel explained to me, "As long as we think homosexuality is about effeminacy in men—as long as we think we can tell if a guy's gay if he's acting 'feminine'—then we can't tease it out. For now, though, it's hard to say: Is being a feminine man bad because it's considered evidence that you're gay? Or is being gay bad because it's seen as feminine? Or are both bad? And if the association between femininity and gayness is severed, what happens next?
The changes over the last two decades may provide some clues. After all, anti-gay attitudes in the United States have declined dramatically since the s and '90s.
As recently as ten years ago, the public was evenly divided on whether homosexuality should be accepted or discouraged by society. Today, 59 percent of Americans say it should be accepted, according to a Gallup poll released recently. For the past three years, more Americans support same-sex marriage than oppose it. The most recent Pew Research Center survey , conducted this past March, found 49 percent in favor, compared to 44 percent opposed—and other polls have put the level of support even higher.
About two-thirds of the public thinks that gay and lesbian couples can be as good parents as heterosexual couples and that they should have the same legal rights as their straight counterparts. Among young people, especially, anti-gay views are decidedly the exception. About three-quarters of millennials believe homosexuality should be accepted and 70 percent support same-sex marriage. And, in large part, it is young men who have been driving this trend. Ever since we've been asking about it in public opinion polls, men have been more likely than women to espouse anti-gay views—a fact that buttressed the theory that masculinity is intimately connected with homophobia, says Tristan Bridges , assistant professor of sociology at The College at Brockport, SUNY.
But just recently that gender gap has begun to narrow. Among millennials, it's virtually non-existent: 69 percent of young women support same-sex marriage, compared to 65 percent of young men. Though homophobia is by no means eradicated—after all, Bridges points out, straight men especially still seem be far more comfortable with gay identity than actual gay sex —the largely supportive response to Collins and Rogers coming out would seem to reflect a real and rapid change in anti-gay attitudes, which should certainly be celebrated.
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What's far less clear is whether this shift is actually changing the way homophobia is used as a weapon for maintaining traditional masculinity. That's what sociologist C. Pascoe found when she spent a year and a half at a California high school doing research for her book, Dude, You're a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School. Homophobic slurs were tossed around constantly, but the students insisted they weren't really about sexual orientation. That's just mean,'" she told me.
Instead, boys labeled their peers "fags" for things like dancing, being too emotional, caring about clothing, being incompetent, or not have success with girls. While actually being gay wasn't exactly accepted, Pascoe discovered that it wasn't nearly as bad as being considered an unmasculine guy.
As one student told her , "Well, being gay is just a lifestyle. You can still throw a football around and be gay. Gay Escorts in Helchteren Belgium They are religious, and they don't want to have a gay boy in their house. These gay bars are the city's top picks. Where can I find Homosexual in Belgium?
Not a strict gay club but a hotspot during Pride Week nonetheless. First, the kinds of religious exemptions that Abbott and Davis and the "No" faction in Belgium are advocating go far beyond what is necessary to protect the freedom of religion and belief. In this climate, John Ware and Christobel Poll set up Helchteren first gay and lesbian political group.