By Jason Menard
Tim Hardaway just told it like it is. The question isn’t why should we be shocked that these attitudes towards homosexuals exist, but rather why should we think that attitudes have changed that much?
Say what you want about Hardaway’s comments, but the retired basketball player simply expressed his true feelings, without the layers of innuendo, politically correct speak, and evasion that so many others have. In response to a question regarding former NBA player John Amaeche’s recent announcement that he is gay, the retired point guard stated “I hate gays.”
He admitted that he was a homophobe and simply stated that he’d rather not associate with homosexuals. Forward thinking? No. Honest, yes. And you know what, I’d rather people who have these attitudes be honest and up front about them. At least then you know where they stand.
Homosexuality is the final frontier. It’s the last acceptable bastion of intolerance. Imagine what would have happened had the table been turned and a white player had said, in regards to Tim Hardaway, “I hate black people.” Sure, Hardaway’s been removed from any NBA public relations events, but that’s tantamount to a slap on the wrist.
I hate gays. That’s about as honest as can be. But what’s worse: Hardaway’s ill-informed, but heartfelt belief, or other statements like the gem that’s destined to live on in infamy uttered by Philadelphia 76ers forward Shavlik Randolph who said, “as long as you don’t bring your gayness on me that’s fine.” Or the half-assed argument levied by LeBron James who said it would be hard to trust a player who wasn’t honest about themselves and how that wouldn’t be conducive to a team dynamic.
It’s all a bunch of crap. It’s all intolerance and it’s all something that wouldn’t be tolerated by anyone if the issues were about colour or gender. But sexuality is our last taboo. And it’s not just in the testosterone-heavy sports world that we see this type of ignorance.
It’s on our school yards. One would have hoped things have progressed from the times in my youth where, in our fits of ignorance, we made jokes about this new disease about AIDS. We were young, we were struggling with our emerging sexualities, and the easiest way to ensure that you weren’t called a “fag” was to assert your masculinity through what’s tantamount to gay bashing. My son, in grade seven, has heard the same type of language bandied about in 2007. Fag, homo, queer are used as derogative terms in a way that racial epithets would never be tolerated.
Then we wonder why so few people come out?
And that’s part of the problem. People are afraid of what they don’t know. I can honestly say that I was never knowingly exposed to a gay person until I reached university. I know that’s probably not true, but I met the first person that I met who was “out” after high school. Since then, I’ve had the distinct pleasure to call many homosexuals my friends – not because they’re gay, but because they’re good people. Prior to that, I was the same as many others – joining in with gay jokes without thought of their consequence. After all, it’s easy to be insensitive when you haven’t been sensitized.
But since that time, I’ve met gay family members, friends, and associates. Their sexuality or mine has never been an issue. We would speak about our respective partners, mine being my wife, theirs being their boyfriend or girlfriend, as if there was nothing in the world strange about it – and the reason is because there is nothing in the world strange about it.
The unfortunate part is that the world around homosexuals is strange about them. Being gay isn’t catching. You either are or aren’t. I’ve seen homosexual couples kiss and yet never had the urge to find a guy to lock lips with. When gay marriage was made legal, it didn’t impact me in any way, shape, or form. I did not leave my wife in search of a same-sex union.
So why would playing sports with a gay teammate be any different? Having been in my share of locker rooms, both playing sports and covering them, I know that the behaviour displayed in there is certainly nothing that would be considered arousing. Put it this way: the gay guy in the locker room is probably not interested in the puerile, armpit-fart-noise making, towel-snapping, vulgar heterosexual teammate.
Yet there’s still this great fear – the fear of the unknown. But maybe that will change one day. Just as white people learned that there’s nothing wrong with associating with black people, so too maybe will heterosexuals learn that sexuality has nothing to do with how we interact. Sure, there will always be those who remain ignorant – just as there are those who hate people because of the colour of their skin or think that women are inferior to men just because of their genitalia. But maybe the rest of us can grow and learn.
On the playground, my son remains confused because his experience with homosexuals differs from what he hears on the playground. The anger and vitriol with which his friends characterize homosexuals doesn’t wash with his real-life experience with our friends and family members. And that won’t change until parents learn and share their experiences with their children. It’s all about education and familiarization.
Maybe we can learn to appreciate each other for what we are. And it starts with exposure. From musicians coming out, to TV actors, to sports athletes – when we that sexuality doesn’t have any impact on our icons’ ability to perform, then maybe we’ll get over this hang-up.
After all, whether it’s dribbling a basketball or filling out a report, the only thing that matters is your skills and talents – not who shares your bed at night.
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