We’ve spent some time here talking about homophobia in professional sports, but my friend Benjy Sarlin has a new lens on the gay community’s relationship to sports in the form of a great piece about the rise of gay sports bars. The piece focuses on gay men (I’d be curious to know if there are lesbian sports bars out there), and takes on everything from the role of gay athletic leagues, to the charges that gay sports bars aren’t “gay” enough, to understandings of what counts as acceptable gender and political expression in various gay communities:
Not surprisingly, gay fans complain they’re often unfairly labeled as wannabe heteros.
“As gay men, it’s expected that we know nothing about sports,” Frank Anthony Polito, a Detroit Tigers fan who watches ballgames at nearby Gym Sportsbar, says. “And if we act like we do, we must be putting it on.”
Cyd Zeigler, an obsessive sports nut and intense competitor, says being teased as “butch” by other gays is one of his biggest frustrations.
“It’s kind of sad, but many gay people are as close-minded about sports as some high-profile athletes are close-minded about homosexuality,” he says. “Many gay people feel the need to compartmentalize people who aren’t like them. So if you’re politically conservative or you like sports, many gay people try to push you to the far corners of the community. They felt tormented by sports as children, so it’s payback time now that they’re adults.”
I’m always sort of fascinated by debates about communal purity, like this sort of conversation, and more substantively, a lawsuit Benjy alludes to about whether bisexual players count as gay or straight for the purposes of determining membership on a gay softball team. Obviously whether or not you’re super-into football isn’t actually determinative of who you like to have sex with. But it’s too bad that we’re still at a point where hollering at the television over insane managerial decisions during the playoffs could still be seen by anyone as culture treason. One of the benefits of an environment that makes it easier for folks to come out should be a sense that your community is bigger than you knew, big enough for everyone not to have to be invested in the same projects, and big enough to accommodate multiple gay cultures, and to accept solidarity when it’s offered. If gay men want a bar where they can hang out and watch football, it doesn’t mean the club that has Madonna dance nights is going to shut down. And bisexual people aren’t inherently infiltrators.