Monday, July 5, 2010

Breaking the Sexuality Barrier

The other day, I read an article over at Pension Plan Puppets, posted by the incomparable Wrap Around Curl. It was a spectacularly written piece in the National Post by Bruce Arthur, and it told the story of Brian Burke's walk in the Pride parade this past weekend, but the real story here is the short-lived tale of his trail-blazing son, Brendan. Please read the Arthur piece, it is very moving and worth the read. Also worthy is the John Buccigross piece, mentioned in the post.

I posted the following at PPP:

Wow. Stellar piece by Arthur. Incredibly moving.
Things seem to happen for a reason, whether fate, or act of God, or by the natural order of the universe, believe what you will. So many twists of fate later, from Burke being signed here, to Brendan coming out when he did, the Buccigross piece, the accident…
This tragedy has brought the attention of the sporting world upon the issue of gay athletes, and homosexuality in general. While it’s of little solace to those mourning Brendan this day, I believe that that particular young man would consider the price paid good value.
There is no greater primordial soup than this city, this hockey club, this date in time, and this family in which to give new life to this movement. Toronto hosts the largest Pride parade of it’s kind in North America, in a country renown throughout the world as a bastion of human rights and freedoms. The Maple Leafs are arguably the most successful franchise in North America, with the most ardently loyal fan base.
This millenium, short tenured as it has yet been, has shown time and again that the public at large is ready to accept LGBT people in all ways, even as unfamiliarity makes then uncomfortable. It had furrowed it’s brow disapprovingly at those whose sensitivities have not yet matured accordingly.
Is there a more prominent family in all of sport than the Burke’s? More affable? More loyal? More respected? Is there a more outspoken and bombastic figure than Brian Burke? You’d be hard-pressed to find a family comparable in these aspects.
This moment, captured and fostered properly, can grant Brendan the calalyst ever-lasting life, and the family a legacy that no bevy of Stanley Cups could rival.
This movement already had wings, now it has a very prominent public figurehead, and a compelling narrative. I’ve witnessed progress first-hand. I work in a Toronto-area high school, and for the first time ever I’ve witnessed an openly gay teenage boy attend, no small feat in the image and hormone driven microcosm that is high school. Good friends of mine have informed me of their sexuality, and been accepted as readily as they were before. In fact, this year I was in attendance with them at Pride festivities, my first time ever.
I sincerely hope that the fuse is lit, that teams and organizations will begin to support LGBT activism, by donating to the cause, being visible at events, and most importantly, by fostering environments of individuality, acceptance and inclusion.
I hope that gay athletes find the courage to be the people they are, and completely unapologetic. I also hope straight athletes find the courage to realize that acceptance begins by acting on the strength of their convictions, and standing side by side with their gay teammates. It’s long past due.
Sorry to wax, but this issue has moved me.

And it has moved me. Being a child of mixed race in the seventies and eighties left me keenly aware of the injustices and emotional damage wrought by the insensitivites, the ignorance and even the hatred given by those who see you as different, and therefore bad, because of something completely beyond your control. That's what this is really about. People are so much more than their color of skin, their sexual preference, their religion, their language, etc. These are largely determinations they had absolutely nothing to do with.

The athletic world is fraught with misogyny and homophobia, as it was with racism before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. In locker rooms full of highly competitive men, every edge is seized upon, and every potential weakness is exposed. It is time for LGBT people to cast aside the mindset that being different is a weakness, where that mindset exists, and it does, and to begin to educate and expose their teammates and peers to the reality of the situation. Being LGBT has never helped or hindered anyone's ability to throw or catch, run or skate, shoot and score, win or lose. Ever. In this day and age, I think they will have more support than they will have trouble, and where there will be trouble, there will be the mindful eye of the populace. The LGBT community has more support than it knows. It's time for gay athletes to be themselves.

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