Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Warning To Gay Athletes--Stay In The Closet


To gay athletes contemplating coming out of the closet--don't do it. This is an impassioned  message from a gay, anxiety-ridden athlete who plays college football in the Big 10. His name is Bobby, the 20-year-old son of a friend of mine. Bobby said he'd talk about what it's like being a gay, closet-ridden player if I didn't use his name or the name of his school.

Living in the closet, Bobby insisted, is hell.
"It's a miserable, fake life. It's living two lives, hiding what you really are, living in fear of being found out. You spend so much time worrying and keeping your secret. It's wasted time, time you could be using doing something constructive. You're worrying about friendships.You know some people who like you because they think you're straight won't be your friend if they know you're gay. There's a bunch of guys I know who'd probably drift away from me if they knew I was gay. That really screws with your self esteem."

So if closet life is so hellish, why not come out? That can't be any worse.
"Oh yes it can," Bobby replied. "It's hell but it's a different kind of hell. The sports world is a macho world. The locker room is as macho as it gets. All sports are the same. I've played basketball and baseball. Locker rooms are the same. There's a lot of sex talk going on all the time. Making fun of gays is big sport in the locker room, calling them faggots and every other dirty name. If you talk to straight athletes about dealing with gay players, they'd say all the right things, the p.c. things. But they'd be lying. They don't respect gays. When it gets out that a player is gay, players from other teams would really abuse him. I couldn't stand that.  I don't want to be defined as a gay. That's only a small part of me. I'd rather stay in the closet."

He continued: "If I came out, other athletes would see me differently and in a negative way. They'd see me as the gay guy. They'd be making jokes behind my back. Some guys would be OK but most of them wouldn't be. The shower would be a big thing. I know they'd be uncomfortable around me in the shower. They wouldn't want to get undressed around me. They think I'd get aroused seeing them without clothes on. They couldn't stand that. I'm very careful about not getting aroused in the locker room. I'd never let that happen. But the guys would be worried about it, actually afraid of me. I couldn't stand being in that position."

Only a handful of people, including his father, know he's gay. Bobby said he figured out he was gay when he was about eleven, just after his mother died. "I know she didn't like gays," he said. "She made that clear. She would have hated having a gay son. I'm glad I never had to confront that situation when she was alive."

What about his love life?
"I don't have a boy friend," he replied. "I'm in a small-town atmosphere. I've really got to be careful. I'm afraid of being caught. There's another gay guy on the team. I see him once in a while. But we stay away from each other. Like me, he's terrified of being  caught.".

In high school Bobby had a horrifying experience related to his homosexuality, something that still haunts him. "I was in love with a guy on my high school team, a guy who was in the closet and scared of what he was," Bobby said. "His family didn't know and he was afraid they'd find out. One day he shot himself in the head."
Bobby has help hiding his homosexuality. "I have a girl friend I go out with, like we're lovers," he explained. "But she's like me. She's gay and she's an athlete. She's in the closet too. Her family doesn't know she's gay and she's afraid to tell them. She's not ready for the gay life. Her life is as screwed up as mine is. We're the perfect couple."

Though Bobby isn't a star, he's a very good player, good enough to be a pro prospect. That's another reason he wants to stay in the closet. "I have a chance to play pro ball and I don't want to louse that up," he said. "If I come out, from what I hear, that might cut down on my chances of being drafted. Some teams won't want to be bothered with an openly gay player. It would be a distraction."

Will some football player, either in college or the pros, come out of the closet soon? "It's sure to happen in the next few years," Bobby said. "He's got to be a star player, some one the team can't do without. He's got to be a strong person, somebody like Jackie Robinson. What Jackie went through was really tough, being the first black player in major league baseball. Breaking the gay barrier will be hard, but nowhere near as tough as breaking the color barrier. People were more scared of blacks back then, in the 1940s, than they are scared of gays now. That's probably the only good thing about being the first out of the closet."