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Is There Such A Thing As A Gay Sport?

Short Answer: No.

Long Answer: No, but who's asking?

If you ask gay women in their living rooms, you will probably hear someone talk about how they know a lot of lesbians in this or that sport. They may even say that a specific sport seem gay to them. What they mean is "a lot of gay women play this sport; it is open to lesbians who want to play. It is a gay sport." The open secret is that yes, a lot of lesbians play sports. I spent a crazy amount of time trying to find women online talking about this and man was it difficult. Some of these links are from page 9 and on of google searches. Does that mean gay women aren't talking about this? Oh no, it does not. I have had this conversation casually with numerous people over the years. Lesbians are watching sports too and noticing things.


Here is an interesting piece written by Ivan E. Coyote (famous Canadian queer writer), which is the only place I could find anyone online discussing the eyeliner on the women's hockey teams. Every single Olympics, we queer women wonder out loud to each other who the fuck decides to wear a shit-ton of eyeliner for a hockey game, straight or not? Who and why are these people doing their makeup before a hockey game? We are also well aware of the number of lesbians who are into sports - where are they and why are they all wearing eyeliner as a rule? Sports are being straightened up, obviously, to protect the homophobic feelings of straight athletes and come on, we all know it. It seems few online are writing about it though.

Canadian Olympic gold medalist Sarah Vaillancourt told AfterEllen:

"They don't want me to talk about it so much," she said, "because if one person comes out, everyone's [going to be labeled] a lesbian. My whole team is not lesbian."


The article continues:

"The seemingly logical follow-up question is: So what if everyone on the team was labeled a lesbian?

The unfortunate answer is that women's athletic organizers have been stigmatizing the sports dyke persona for so long, that having an entire team labeled as "lesbian" might affect the quality of play from straight athletes. Since Babe Didrickson's phenomenal athletic career (and relationship with Betty Dodd in the 1930s), the men (and now women) who control professional sports have pushed the idea that being an open lesbian will prevent athletes from connecting with sponsors and fans."


I'm not sure that the sport is as concerned about what the fans think alone, though. It very much seems that the other athletes are quite concerned with being labeled lesbians themselves regardless of whether or not it is true or whether or not the fans and sponsors ever find out the 'rumor' (which may be all in their heads to begin with).

You can see this reaction from athletes in the response to the Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion's advertisement from the Sochi Olympics. When gay people suggest even in joking that there might be something gay about their sport this is the response they received from a male luger:

"It's a gross misrepresentation of everything. All of it seems like a lie to me,

"I don't think it's fair for people that do have same sex attraction that they are using sport to promote their lifestyle.

"Kids don't think that way and now they're having commercials and promoting that this is the way sports are. I just think it's too bad.

"It's just sportsmanship. When did we come so sexual about everything? To make those comparisons, I think it's sad."


He managed to mention as well, that the connection between homoeroticism and sport didn't really bother him. Just the connection with his sport. He understands the joke, just don't tell it about him:

"When we were kids I didn't get on the doubles sled thinking, well it never even crossed my mind, that 'oh, this is gay'. You think of like...wrestlers...football players, or whoever...'oh it's male on male contact so something is going on'.I don't think it's fair for people that do have same sex attraction that they are using sport to promote their lifestyle. It's not that way at all. To make those comparisons, I think it's sad. "


You see, he understands that wrestling, etc. can be viewed as homoerotic, that's funny, but not luge. He mentioned the children and used the term 'their lifestyle' to describe gay people (lifestyle is such a dog whistle) - twice. Never mind the fact that kids certainly do think that way. Gay kids do anyway. Children know about sexuality. They are finding things sexy as they go through puberty, deal with it. Regardless, I knew something was different about myself long before I started having pants feelings. Maybe straight people don't notice their sexuality so young because they do fit in. There isn't anything making them feel like an other. There is nothing for them to figure out, they aren't made to feel different in any noticeable way.

Now I don't really think that reducing being gay to a joke is a good idea to begin with most of the time. It's only funny because most of the world is homophobic, otherwise it just isn't funny. Laughing about the heteroeroticism (not a real word - I wonder why?) in straight women watching men in tight pants or straight men seeing sexuality in women's sport is not really funny – it's gayness being seen as a laughable concept or labeling someone something that they find offensive that drives the humor in that kind of joke most of the time. It's a ribbing, to be made alongside 'Your Momma' jokes. That, I think is the crux of why I liked the ad though, it's funny because homophobes were going to get pissed off and say homophobic things. I also remember a time when queer politics and the queer movement were more radical and in your face and frankly, I liked it better that way. I feel as though we need more of that and this is one of the rare times I do like the joke. It's being made at the expense of homophobes by being right up in their faces.


Straight people have to become okay with the concept of gay people in their midst. They have to become okay with homoeroticism. If the number of allies in my life are any indication, straight people want to say they are down with our cause and desire equality. The ideal goal is that all people should be able to walk into any bar and enjoy themselves just the same as anyone else regardless of race, sexuality, etc. This will naturally mean that gay people would be in bars hitting on straight people and straight people are going to have to learn to be okay with that and not have it turn into a contest to prove how not gay you are. The state of gay rights in the straight world today can be summed up basically by "No homo!!! Not that there's anything wrong with that." And in my eyes, that is not enough. Not even close. If you feel you have to say 'no homo', then the second half of that sentence is clearly a lie.

This tremendous amount of straight posturing going on is detrimental to the gay athletes who wish to compete equally. It interferes with their ability to speak up on gay issues too.


Avery Stone writes:

"More recently, this fall I interviewed Cahow for GO! Athletes, an advocacy organization. As we discussed her experiences as a gay athlete, she told me about spearheading a video for the You Can Play Project, a group that promotes gender equality for athletes. She approached the Canadian Women's Hockey League and had tremendous difficulty getting straight or gay players to participate. Most of the women, she told me, worried about being perceived as lesbians."


Nora Cothren writes:

"Around that same time, I started questioning my sexuality. Once that first question popped up in my mind, I squashed it down and didn't let myself think about it. There was no way I could be gay and play hockey. Now, you might be thinking, "What is she talking about? Women's ice hockey? So many lesbians play ice hockey." That was the problem: the stereotype of the female athlete being gay. My teammates hated that stereotype, and they made it very clear. "Why are there so many lesbians on that team? I hate it! Everyone thinks I am a lesbian." And, "Ugh, I swear there is a man on their team. Either that, or a huge dyke.""


Seriously, straight people. You need to figure out how to be okay with being labelled gay. It is not the end of the world if someone thinks you're gay for a minute. If the rumors persist and become jokes, it is due to the inherent homophobia of the world and I'm asking you to please stop feeding that narrative by being all insulted. People insult you and make jokes by calling you gay because it works. You get riled up. Stop letting it work. Please.

If you think being labeled gay is a 'distraction' for straight athletes, think for a second how the gay ones feel. Actually, just go read their words. I linked them.

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