Homophobia in Hockey – The Response (UPDATED)ShareThis
Response, as was to be expected, has been fast and furious, minus the Vin Diesel. I’ve heard from the Director of GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), and from the director of the NYC Gay Hockey Association.
The following is an except from Jeff Kagan’s email to me (said Director of NYCGHA), to which I responded that unlike sexuality, being a Ranger fan is a choice, and for that I’m allowed to boo him.
First, on phrase-ology: you learn something new everyday.
“Early on in your article, you used the term “sexual orientation”, but later on, you used the term “sexual preference”. To me, the term “sexual preference” has contributed to many of the problems facing the gay community. The term implies that being gay is a choice (a preference). As I’m sure you know, it is not a choice, though many people who come out against the gay community suggest that we have the choice to change who we are. I wanted to clarify the semantics of that term, as it has been used for so long, by so many, most people don’t even think about what it means. Its a commonly misused term, and it misleads the people who hear it.”
And next, again from Jeff, a story that makes me want to punch an endless number of people:
“I’m not sure if you’re aware, but the NYC Gay Hockey Association once had an unpleasant experience at Madison Square Garden. We had arranged for group seats for 30 of our members and friends. We were all enjoying the game. During the first intermission, it is customary for the Group Ticket purchasers (usually companies and organizations) to have their name displayed on the jumbotron. When the name “New York City Gay Hockey Association” went up, hundreds and hundreds of people started booing. I can’t even tell you what that felt like. I was horrified just to think they these hockey fans, people who loved hockey as much as I do, were so close-minded and hateful about the gay community. It pretty much soured my interest in the NHL, and its been a slow road coming back. This story was written up in the New York Times. We even met with Madison Square Garden & Cablevision officials to deal with it, and come up with solutions for providing a more welcoming environment for everyone.”
Greg Wyshynski or “Puck Daddy”, who is Yahoo! sports resident hockey blogger, wrote a great response to my piece. The comments section is less attractive.
The most common resistance I’m getting from people are those preaching free speech.
My stance on that is two-fold. One, I love free speech, and I’m not very politically correct myself. But if you insist on extending “free-speech” to meaning offending anyone you want whenever you want, then you’re just a dick. That one is pretty simple.
And two, I’m fine with verbally abusing friends… about things they can control. So if my teammate is fat, I feel okay about calling him a lard-ass, because it’s different (with apologies to those with glandular conditions). A gay guy can’t put down the fork, get on a treadmill and ungay himself (not that he would if he could – as Neil pointed out in the comment secion below, being gay is to be seen as not something wrong, but a trait, like being tall).
More response – I exchanged emails with ex-professional basketball player Paul Shirley in the last couple days, and he wrote back a pretty compelling point. Paul played for Chicago, Phoenix, Minnesota… er… New Orleans? Dude played on 11 teams in seven years, including ones in Greece, Russia and beyond. His thought on gay athletes in basketball:
“The only one that comes to mind wrote the book on the subject. Literally. John Amaechi wrote Man In The Middle about his experience as a gay basketball player. He was closeted when he played; the book took care of his uncloseting. In your article, you mention flippantly that there needs to be research done on the lack of gay professional athletes. I think that’s a legitimate question because it doesn’t seem that the barrier of persecution explains away the dearth of them. I can’t remember a single basketball coach saying anything even remotely anti-homosexual, but I’ve never had a gay teammate. (That I knew of.) Even assuming that there were a few along the way, there was certainly no silent minority of gay basketball players. Thus, it seems to me that it would be interesting to learn whether or not the particular genetic makeup it takes to be a professional athlete somehow precludes liking one’s own sex more than the opposite.”
My favourite part of today has been the kind emails from supporters – sorry I haven’t been able to get back to everyone. Tomorrow I’ll be running excerpts from a number of the emails that I’ve received from gay men in hockey. And not even one of them came onto to me. Can you believe it? You’re shocked, I sense it.