An Uncomfortable Self Truth

John Amaechi is a retired NBA basketball player who recently came out with a book. When I say ‘came out’ I mean both published a book, and came out of the closet. My reaction to that was casual indifference.

Then I read an opinion piece by Randy Horick in this weeks Nashville Scene. Horick’s main point is that homosexuality is accepted enough that most people don’t care now. But I’m more interested in a topic he didn’t bring up until late in the piece. Amaechi is the first NBA player to come out, so now that the ground is broken when will active players start coming out? He thinks conventional wisdom is that coming out would be a career ender for a professional athlete. He also thinks conventional wisdom is wrong. Coming out won’t be a problem for an active professional athlete.

Horick must have written his piece before the Tim Hardaway controversy. Hardaway is another retired NBA player who also happens to be a homophobe. He admitted that he hates gay people and I definitely don’t condone that, but he also says:

I don't think he should be in the locker room while we're in the locker room.

That comment is going to be lost in all the hate of the rest of Hardaway’s rant, but I think it’s an interesting thing to consider. We have gender separated locker rooms because a lot of people are uncomfortable getting undressed in front of people of the opposite sex. I presume that’s because of the rampant heterosexuality. So is it okay to apply this same standard to gay people? Do we need to get them separate locker rooms? Should we segregate locker rooms based on sexual preferences rather than gender?

On a gut instinct level, it doesn’t sound right to have separate gay and straight locker rooms. But when I try and think about it logically, it makes a little sense. We’re willing to acknowledge that a woman may be uncomfortable undressing in front of a man who may be attracted to her, so we should be willing to acknowledge the same feeling from a man.

Personally, I’d be uncomfortable sharing a dressing room with a woman. Not because I think they’re going to be unable to control their wild attraction to me. But I do know they would be looking me over, and I know they would be judging. We all judge people on their attractiveness. I can handle that when I’m wearing clothes, but when naked I’m a little more vulnerable. I’ve heard enough candid comments from health care professionals to be confident even doctors do it. So I guess as hateful as it makes me feel, I’m going to have to acknowledge that I’d feel uncomfortable getting undressed in front of a gay man. I’m just going to be uncomfortable getting undressed in front of a stranger, male or female, with a sexual interest in men.

I’d do it in spite of the discomfort. And I don’t plan to start wondering about all the sexuality of the guys in my locker room at the gym or shunning female doctors. But I can understand why athletes have a hard time dealing with a team mate being openly gay.

* Just to be perfectly clear, I understand the discomfort, not the hate.


The Obligatory Valentine's Day Post (2nd Edition)

Let me start off this year’s obligatory Valentine’s Day post by saying one thing. I read last year’s obligatory Valentine’s Day post and I’m proud of it. I can’t really add a lot to it, but I’m still going to wander around a little and see what ends up on the page.

Just the other day I was reading an introduction to a short story collection. The writer made the comment that most of our fiction revolves around two themes. War and love. I’ve had that thought before myself, but I’ve never heard it articulated as well as he did. His reasoning for the dominance of these two themes? They’re both very intense and stress the characters in interesting ways. And of course we want to read about interesting characters and interesting situations. If we want tedium we have everyday life. (In case anyone is wondering, the stories focused more on the war aspect. And the editor who wrote the words I’m interested in was Harry Turtledove.)

It always interests me that these two themes are so popular in our culture. (And most other cultures as well.) The best stories make skillful use of both. And even in every day life they’re pretty well entwined. You don’t really get one without the other in one variation or another. Watch any television or movie drama and you’ll see it.

I guess when you talk about screen dramas you have to differentiate between the ‘soap opera’ style and the more serious style. The soap opera styles make it the most obvious. I don’t watch this type a lot, but The OC, and Desperate Housewives are the ones that come to mind first. Couples are constantly getting together and splitting up because the writers know that the stable relationships just aren’t that entertaining.

A ‘serious’ style entertainment drama is usually slightly more subtle. They tease you with the chemistry between the characters, but the world always manages to keep them apart. When they do finally get together, something always breaks them up. Star Trek is a good example of that. You could always be sure that any lady who caught Captain Kirk’s eye was going to have to die. This is why I fear for Kate on Lost. They’ve got a good triangle going, so she may be safe. But there’s a new lady in the picture, and Kate did just hook up with Sawyer.

Of course this only applies to dramas. The key difference between a comedy and a drama is that the boy gets to keep the girl at the end.

Lest the Future Mrs. W read this and get ideas, I have to add one thing. What I want in my entertainment and in my actual relationships are very different. Leave the battleground love to the entertainment industry. I prefer to come home to a good stable relationship, with just a little sizzle. (That means wear heels to bed, not picking a fight.)

This totally did not end up where I thought I was going. I'm going to have to think on it some more.