Today is the NYC Pride Parade. So we will not have the standard musings article. Instead, it’s personal anecdote time. Warning, there are a couple instances of strong language in here. They’ve been ***-ed for family friendliness but, you know, they’re there.
High School life as a Theatre Kid / Jock
My senior year of high school our varsity soccer team was set to play against a team that was much better than us. They had one player who was one of the best in the state and had been scoring goals right, left, and center on every team they played that year. My coach took me aside and told me that for this game, we’d essentially be playing 10v10. I was to follow this player all over the field and make sure he never got the ball. So dutifully I wandered all over the field following this guy. We’ll call him Scott. (Scott is not his real name.)
Over the course of the game, Scott and I talked a bunch. We didn’t have much else to do. He would try and run to get open, I would stay right on his hip, kicking away any attempt. We talked about college, and sports, and our different schools. I would say he was a cool guy through that conversation. Towards the end of the game, one of Scott’s players laid a perfect ball in for a header for him, and I was out of position. Realizing my error, I sprinted back towards him, jumped, and was just able to deflect the ball with my own head. We both came crashing down to the turf.
We rolled over to continue the play, and Scott looked at me, and realization dawned across his face. “Hey!” He yelled. “You’re that f****t in Cinderella!” It’s true, at the time I was playing the Prince in Cinderella at the Portland Players, a community theater in South Portland, Maine. I looked at him, shrugged, and said “hey, you saw it.”
I used to tell that story with pride.
It used to be hilarious to me. Now, thinking on it, it makes me sad. I used to use the homophobia of my opponents as a tactic, not in any way to teach them. I would make open passes at opponents to make them uncomfortable. I would whisper “nice butt” to a player who had been especially homophobic in his language.
During my final lacrosse game (I blew out my knee near halftime and never played again), I was chatting with a player that I had been playing against my whole life. We were lined up on the wing for a faceoff, waiting for the whistle to blow. We were catching up, talking about life, and he asked me where I was going to play lacrosse in college. “Actually, I’m heading to school for Musical Theatre.” There was a silence, then he moved a couple steps away from me and said, “so, what? Are you a f****t?” I don’t remember what I answered, it was probably snarky.
We have a long way to go
Just yesterday after Mexico defeated Germany in the World Cup, their fans chanted “maricón” which is a gay slur. The team was fined a useless $10K for it. Before the first World Cup match had started, a french gay couple was sent to the hospital in St. Petersburg after being brutally attacked. Fans lashed back, calling for “Straight Night” after the Red Sox painted their logo in the Pride flag on the pitcher’s mound. And a CrossFit in Indiana cancelled the workout in honor of Pride month saying “the directors and owners of Infiltrate value health and wellness and they believe that this event does not”. The move was then thanked by a company executive. These are not isolated incidents. American culture is coming to a head over LGBTQ issues, and now more than ever, the community needs allies.
Supporting LGBTQ Athletes
It’s at this point I should point out, I’m not a gay man. That’s why my acceptance of the homophobic tendencies of my opponents makes me so sad. I could have been a strong ally, instead I turned sexual orientation into a joke that assuredly did more to push them away than bring them to understanding. 10+ years later, I talked the other day with a high school student who’s an openly gay soccer/lacrosse player, and he said it has almost never been an issue. Neither in his locker room or on the field does he get the kind of treatment or statements I’m describing. The world has a long way to go, but it seems to be going. Every day, the next generation is more and more inspiring to me, and culture is shifting more and more towards an inclusive, loving one. We need to keep it going.
Happy Pride, everyone, now go be the goddamned unicorns that you are.
If you haven’t yet, read Katie Pierce’s beautiful essay she posted yesterday, “An Alliance of Pride”. These are the kinds of articles that The Turf prides itself on, and it is without question a great read today, and every day.
Everyone at The Turf wishes you all a very happy, safe, and loving Pride month. We will continue to be an ally organization to the LGBTQI+ community through our advocacy and our storytelling. #HappyPride
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