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.


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