09 February 2007

 

John Amaechi Comes Out

Former Orlando Magic center John Amaechi (Here (.pdf) is what the page looked like as of 6:10 a.m. EST. Hopefully the homophobic baggage has been removed by when you're reading this) is coming out of the closet about being gay in his autobiography. The reactions range from common sense to out-to-lunch:

Charles Barkley: "It shouldn't be a big deal to anybody. I know I've played with gay players and against gay players and it just shouldn't surprise anybody or be any issue."

Grant Hill: "The fact that John has done this, maybe it will give others the comfort or confidence to come out as well, whether they are playing or retired"

LeBron James: "With teammates you have to be trustworthy, and if you're gay and you're not admitting that you are, then you are not trustworthy."

While it looks like this kind of thinking ought to be able to be dealt with logically, I'm not sure it really can. People who are squicked by homos make up all kinds of excuses for their squickedness that have no necessary connection to reality. That being in the closet is a lie, albeit for some what feels a necessary lie, and that lies are closer to untrustworthiness than to trustworthiness may be the nature of reality, but there's little reason to believe that the Jameses of the world can acknowledge that reality. Better to tolerate their verbal stupidity but in a context that says physical violence along the same lines will be crushed harshly.

Harshly.

And "tolerate" doesn't mean ignoring. It means respecting every individual's right to say stupid things, not giving their stupid ideas tacit approval. There are other people who might be listening. The ideas have to be refuted, just don't expect the refutation to take with the one who said the stupid thing in the first place.

Pat Garrity: "I think that's true if you're playing basketball or in an office job. That's just how the world is right now." This might be more disturbing than the explicit homophobia of LeBron James. It's also more accurate. It all comes back to those small number of situations where coming out has actual, real, physical repercussions for the one coming out: Finding out your parents' love or support is conditional, finding out your co-worker or teammate has homocidal tendencies.

In the overwhelming number of cases—overwhelming—coming out is met with support or, at worst, indifference. But since there is that small number of alternative negative casees, we—all of us—let the closet continue to exist. In spite of all the out people, from the woman in the cubicle next to you to congresspersons in the Capitol, too many people keep telling themselves that the lie of the closet is more secure than coming out.

I did it myself for a long time. I was wrong. Lies suck. The closet is an ugly place to be. A life lived in fear is, in fact, a fate worth than death.

(Quotes from the Washington Post; image from OutSports.)

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