|Joshua S. Kelly, USA Today Sports.|
I had one of those fly-on-the-wall moments lately. My bug-like antenna was all a-quiver. In my work I’ll often end up grabbing a sandwich and a coffee and either sit in the truck, sit inside the eatery, or sit at a picnic table outside if the weather is good.
Jason Collins, an openly-gay basketball player, recently came out. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, in an interview appearing in The Advocate, is quoted as saying that openly gay players “would be accepted in the NFL.”
Yet the talk in that donut shop was anything but accepting. Sports is pretty easy to talk about. Issues aren’t so much. A guy in the next booth used every pejorative term for gay men that I have ever heard and some I hadn’t. There were three or four of them and a couple of them had things to say, and the others didn’t.
Only one of them mentioned something about Collins’ game, his skills as a player. That guy was probably a real basketball fan. The other guy, a loud one, was just talk, and one of his favourite subjects was no doubt gay-bashing. I mean, really.
It was fascinating, a glimpse into some people’s attitudes, and the anger was astonishing. That sense of absolute disdain for another human being. The sheer threat of it, like it somehow affected the quality of his own life.
Would an openly gay football player be accepted? What if he came out first, at training camp?
I guess we shouldn’t do hypotheticals…
But once in the league and under contract, I think he would be tolerated. Not that he wouldn’t get everything from outright hate talk, right up in your face in the line of scrimmage, but heavy-handed humour, the remark from a friend that slips out by accident, the endless questions based on ignorance…we live and die by our words.
And the words for homosexuality are words of condemnation. This is ingrained from an early age. In a sense we’re lucky: we can still hide. Black men couldn’t hide, Jews couldn’t hide, but we can hide. It is all too easy.
The top three issues for gays at this point in time are not so much about marriage rights, not so much about the right to adopt, or whether gays should be in the military.
The real issue is what we think of ourselves. Do we buy into the terms of condemnation? Do we see ourselves that way, or have we truly escaped the graffiti we read as children on a wall in some urine-smelling alley downtown or on the pavement in a local park.
Our unconscious attitudes are instilled in us from a very early age. My dad didn’t know when I was eight or ten that I would turn out to be gay. Would he have altered any of his remarks if he did know? All our dads had something to say on the subject, none of it particularly enlightened or enlightening, because they were old school. They had no other words and so no other thoughts but what had been instilled into them.
They had all the same words too.
The word we need to focus on right now is ‘acceptance.’ That’s it, just acceptance. Not for them so much as for ourselves.
Before we can change the world we must first change the way we look at it. Those answers will come from within.