I saw two news stories in my RSS feed yesterday that are not directly connected, but related in an interesting way. I believe both stories revolve around the notion of gender expression, masculinity and homosexuality, and offer some interesting ideas when considered together.

Billy Bean, MLB, and Daniel Murphy

So, here’s the background: Major League Baseball appointed Billy Bean as an inclusion ambassador, and the out-of-the-closet retired player has been making the rounds and visiting various teams. The other day, the GM of the Mets asked Bean to suit up with the team as they practiced. A reporter asked infielder, Daniel Murphy about it.

In my opinion, the press, more than anything else (other than far right Christian crazies) do the most damage and slow down acceptance and inclusion. Why are reporters so caught up focusing upon fears about the locker room? But the stupid reporter asking the question, isn’t the real story, even if it ought to be. Murphy’s answer  and then, Bean’s response– that’s the real story here.

So often when a celebrity or person with some level of power (and professional athletes fall in that category) say anything other than full support for LGBTQ persons, they get branded as homophobes. Folks are either with us or they after against us, right? But support or lack of it, is a lot like coming out, and a binary designation of one or the other (for us/against us or in/out) really falls short. Of course some folks jumped all over Murphy’s comments and there is a goods reason to explore the language he used, but Bean’s response was better than perfect. Here’s what Bean had to say: (emphasis is mine)

After reading his comments, I appreciate that Daniel spoke his truth. I really do. I was visiting his team, and a reporter asked his opinion about me. He was brave to share his feelings, and it made me want to work harder and be a better example that someday might allow him to view things from my perspective, if only for just a moment.

…took me 32 years to fully accept my sexual orientation, so it would be hypocritical of me to not be patient with others.

Bean expressed he’s also happy Murphy is open to creating a relationship with a gay teammate.

Everyone’s path to accepting their own sexual orientation as gay, lesbian, or bisexual is different, but for many, many of us, it includes a phase where we try not to be gay or lesbian. Most of us spend sometime, wanting just to be normal, although for almost all of us, we come to realize that being gay or lesbian, or bi or trans, is normal for us. Coming out may also include looking for role models– people that demonstrate what it means to be gay, lesbian, or bi. These are both critical elements of the journey towards self acceptance. Many of us finally accept our orientation and know it isn’t a choice because we know how hard we have tried to not be gay, lesbian, or bi. We come to the realization that so much of what we have been taught or told about gay and lesbian people is just all wrong.

People like Daniel Murphy have been told all that same crazy stuff too.  They don’t have the personal experience we have had which has led us to know that it isn’t true, and they will only come to believe it as they get to know out of the closet gay and lesbian people. In fact those who seek to keep gay, lesbian, bi, trans, and queer people as second class citizens rely on just that. The success of their position is reliant upon the lies and misinformation being believed as if it were fact. Did you ever hear that crazy one about masterbation? “Don’t do it, or you will go blind!” Lots of kids hear that, but it is utter silliness.

As individuals and as a community, we ought to be encouraging more straight people and especially those who are religious, to share their own feelings about gay people. We ought to be opening up lines of communication and then allowing our relationships with them to be opportunities for changed ideas if those folks are as open as Daniel Murphy to getting to actually know a gay person.

Our task then as an LGBTQ Community. Is to craft a world where it is safe for folks inside and outside of the LGBTQ community to move quickly through their coming out process.

Russell Tovey and Internalized Homophobia

Russell Tovey, on the other hand, demonstrated a different aspect of the lies and misinformation revolving around sexual orientation and being a gay man. There’s a real similarity actually, between Daniel Murphy’s “I don’t believe in Billy Bean’s lifestyle” and Russell Tovey’s, I’m glad I’m not a prancy effeminate gay. It’s as if Russell is saying he doesn’t believe in being prancy and effeminate.  Tovey has bought into an idea as to what it means to be a man, and the kind of gay man others seek out. In both of these situations, there are ideas about what is the right way to be a man.

However, like with Daniel Murphy’s comment, I applaud Russell Tovey’s honesty in sharing his experience and feelings. We can’t confront the lies and misinformation that lead to these “beliefs” if no one is ever honest and let out that they hold these ideas.  And, if we get caught up in bashing the person who shares their honesty, we miss the opportunity to explore where these ideas start and how our culture perpetuates them. Russell and Daniel are not the problem. The ideas they are expressing were taught to them, and are a structural part of what keeps heteronormative masculinity the power that it is.

Homophobia is a word easily thrown around and used as a weapon, and I think homophobia may mean a variety of different things to different people. I think however, all senses of homophobia revolve around rigid notions of masculinity and what it means to be a real man. This gender role expectation allows for people to be deemed as acceptable and unacceptable, and like us or not like us. Our focus ought to be on exploring why culture maintains and protects these rigid gender expectations, rather than attack people who don’t say what we think they ought to say.

Some links regarding these stories are here. I especially like Patrick Studwick’s article. I sometimes disagree with Studwick, but I always respect and enjoy his articles, and this time, he’s written a real gem.

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