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05/10/2010

For one Catskills college, 'smear the queer' is not the racket

by Jeremy Hooper

This weekend, while attending a Mets game, I looked around and thought about the duality that exists in American sport. All around me were men with obsessive knowledge and interest in other men, objects of affection whose developed bodies were decked out in the tightest pants in Flushing. There were butt pats as a way to congratulate. Fan clothing that had been carefully stylized so that the team insignia's had a vintage or distressed looked. Songs that I recognized from turn-of-the-century gay clubs were played in between innings. Sausage (or veggie dog, in my case) was the most popular things on everyone's lips. And hell: We were in a borough called Queens, for rhetorical goodness' sakes!

Now, it's of course unsurprising that I'd see a gay-inclusive environment there at Citi Field. Sports marketers may have most fully focused on the "rugged American male™," but enjoyment of the game is motivated by passion and interest and the soap opera-iness of it all, not Madison Avenue. This world is not one defined thing where only heterosexuals with clearly defined ideas about gender relations get to rule the bullpen. Yes, there is truth in most every stereotype, and there are certainly charms in acknowledging/embracing/joking about those characteristics that we often think of as being linked to L-G-B-T or S. But there is much fallacy in seeing those trends and definitions as being concrete rather than mushy. The reality is that any environment that we, as a generalization, have forced into a "STRAIGHT" box is lacross-racketstill going to have a healthy dose of divergence from that contrived "norm." Any environment that we try to define as only being "GAY" is still going to contain loads of influences from worlds that we've thought to trend hetero. Because we're all in this game together, and no antiquated ideas about what is or is not are going to change that fact. In "macho" there will always be "femme" (and the same in reverse), whether we acknowledge it or not.

The reality is that most all of our labels, terms, and biases in the area of sexuality and gender are contrivances: Conditioned into and used by most all of us as shorthands and generalities, but as large of disservice to our views as Cit Field's mandated posting of calorie counts was to my usual ballpark gluttony. Happily, some of this nation's young people are starting to sport more of this kind of understanding when it comes to inclusive gaming:

Tough and menacing is the [men’s lacrosse] team’s reputation around this State University of New York campus in the foothills of the Catskills. Even Dan Mahar, the head coach, acknowledges his players are viewed as a bit “rough around the edges.”

But this season, the team is developing a new reputation — as models of tolerance — after one of its captains announced in an online essay in February that he was gay. The senior, Andrew McIntosh, said he had not heard a single disparaging comment from his teammates.

“I was embraced with open arms,” he said. “I had teammates come up and give me handshakes, and people saying it takes a lot of guts to do that.”
men’s lacrosse team
College Team Teaches a Lesson in Acceptance [NY Times]

**SEE ALSO: The Outsports column where McIntosh: Despite suicidal thoughts, Oneonta lax captain Andrew McIntosh found his way out of the closet. [OS]

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