Monday, April 29, 2013

Jason Collins And The State of American Homophobia

So finally an American “major sport” professional athlete came out of the closet while still playing his sport. That is a long list of qualifiers for something to be the first something, but it’s significant. The long march toward complete de-stigmatization of homosexuality is now entering a sort of Golden Era of Aviation, where astonishing milestones come on each others’ heels so rapidly it’s easy to think of them as not being a big deal. The first flight over the North Pole was likely a very big deal to the brave person who piloted that airplane. Who the hell knows what that person’s name was, but they did a brave, brave thing. That somebody else eventually would have done it does not make the bravery any less.

Now we have a gay basketball player in the NBA. His name is Jason Collins. Eventually, probably, there will be such a thing as the first openly gay starting right guard in the NFC North. By then we can fully stop giving a shit. But now we’re at first gay active professional athlete in the NBA, NFL, MLB, or NHL. That makes today a little different than yesterday.

How are people reacting?

Well. Generally well. There are some people, and these are straight people, self included, who feel a need to downplay the significance of Jason Collins. There’s an inherent guilt to the speed and power of this distancing impulse that should probably be examined. I can feel it myself. It’s roughly, “Not me. I was always one of the good ones. I never gave a shit if people were gay. I might have used the word ‘faggot’ a time or two, or sat idly by while other people used it casually in conversation, but I always felt bad about it. Okay? Please, I’m already so over the whole people being gay thing. Please please.”

It is absolutely correct that coming out should not be a big deal. But I’ve never been gay, so I don’t know what it’s like. I’ve had hints, being skinny and weak and undersized and too smart for my own good. I was called a faggot often. But I’m not gay. I’ve been a horrible drunk, but luckily found I could choose not to be. I’ve long been out of the closet as a person who cares about grammar. It’s not the same. Those are things that people actually don’t give a shit about. You wouldn’t feel any defensiveness in proffering not to give a shit about whether or not skinny little smartass drunk guys run their mouth with correct punctuation.

Is there a new homophobia nestled in the “I don’t give a shit about any person’s sexuality” claim? Is the word finally and fully out that only the most ignorant and most particularly nasty closet cases are active gay bashers? Is a new tolerant, unthreatened masculinity the de rigueur posture of the straight man? Does it make a difference as long as it’s for the good? No. Probably not. Except maybe insofar as a passive stance like “aw who gives a shit” is less helpful than actively discouraging intolerance when encountered.

All that said, though, who gives a shit about this, right? I mean, really, we’re all supposed to not give a shit about this by now. If any part of you still gives a shit, please consider not giving a shit. If you don’t give a shit, continue not to give a shit. If somebody gives a shit, encourage them not to. Hopefully soon the Supreme Court will not give a shit about this, and then we can all not give a shit about this together. Let’s all not give a shit going forward. It’s great to not give a shit who is gay. It’ll be one big happy Kum ba yah drum circle of who gives a shit, and everybody’s dicks and pussies can go in, on, and around whatever other adults are interested.

Let’s maybe just drop the “NEVER gave a shit.” Clearly somebody gave a shit.

Who was it? The Greatest Generation? And now that they’re all dead and dying, we can go ahead and be as gay as we want? They didn’t land on the beach at Normandy and fight Hitler to death with their bare hands just so our sons could run around sucking each other off in the streets? Is that why we all couldn’t just go ahead and have gay people? You know what? Let’s do it. Let’s blame them. This is fun. “We’re the Greatest!” Yeah, so what? We’re pretty great too. We have gay guys who dunk basketballs for a living, and we don't give a shit.