Sunday, August 24, 2008

Gays and sports: The real problem

Sports journalists at the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association national conference discussed gays and sports during a panel session yesterday.
Most interesting to me was not the back-and-forth about whether journalists should ask athletes to disclose their sexuality or whether gay athletes should be "outed." Instead, it was the assessment of panelists that performances of "tough-guy" masculinity are central to sports, despite sexuality. Ted Rybka, who leads GLAAD's efforts to reach out to the athletic community, said, “With sports in general, it’s all about masculinity…It’s about you not being ‘man enough’.”
Bill Konigsberg, formerly with ESPN but now with the AP, said he thought that the climate for gay men in sports journalism was better than it had ever been. He added:
“The misogyny is almost stronger than the homophobia everywhere I’ve worked.”
In that light, the absence of a lesbian voice on the panel was regrettable. The discussion did briefly turn to women's sports, specifically to the WNBA. ESPN's LZ Granderson said he believed that women may be "the main culprit" in the league's stagnation. “Until it’s properly supported by women” it won’t move to the next level, he said.
Granderson's comments reinforce the general misunderstanding that interest in sports exists in a vacuum. The truth is that the socialization of women and men turn them away from watching women's sports in a myriad of ways.
This same gender socialization that keeps the WNBA from real breakout status, though, is the same socialization that will continue to force sexual minorities in sports to be marginalized and stigmatized.