Comment: Homophobia hurts young straight men too

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

I actually start to resent the stupidity of the arguments around prejudice, not because of their lack of depth or critical understanding of the issues at hand and even the nature of change, but because it forces me to become involved – to seem like I am a professional crusader on these issues alone – one more day of being a professional gay, rather than a whole person.

Let me be plain – I don’t think the issue of homophobia and its effect on the LGBT community should be the most important thing we discuss. We are not like so many of the African countries who enact barbaric laws to kill or imprison certain minorities in the midst of more critical issues like endemic poverty, famine, disease, etc. But there are certainly more pressing things to occupy column inches and our time in Europe and America.

That being said, as I trawl the papers to see what’s happening in the world, I notice an article that quotes Peter Clayton, who chairs the FA’s Homophobia in Football advisory group and is the FA’s only openly gay councillor, who says he too appreciates players’ anxieties in appearing in an anti-homophobia advert. “I suspect agents and clubs shied away from it,” he said. “A player coming forward to appear in it would feel he might ignite more vitriol.”

While I understand what he is saying, think about how desperate sad and backwards that reveals football to be? Especially in the light of the various common arguments I have heard recently, where the FA and Kick It Out seem to think that it is the job of the individual gay sportspeople to change their bigoted and backward organisations. Sadly, football had a chance to prove that with Justin Fashanu, and they failed him as they fail all of us now. The LGBT community doesn’t need any more martyrs.

A source from the PFA told the Independent yesterday: “Maybe in three, four or five years we will have more players involved. At the moment, no one wants to be the player putting their head above the parapet. It’s about the right time and the right place. Players give a lot; they get so many asks. Sometimes there has to be a ‘no’, and this was one of them.”

Firstly, that time scale is a bit optimistic – football is a century behind not half a decade. Secondly, the idea that an FA anti-homophobia campaign got a “no” from players because they were too tired from the anti-racism campaign, too busy feeding the hungry or healing the sick is bollocks – you know it and so do I.

The straight players who were asked (and I have it on very good information that not many were asked) and said “no” abdicated their responsibility as role models – it’s what I believe. Someone like John Terry would be perfect – hell, no one who reads a tabloid is going to believe he’s gay!

Frankly, with the record of heterosexual sleaze from the premiership alone, we should have a dream team of irrefutably straight players to chose from for an anti-homophobia campaign.

It’s worth noting that I know for a fact that several players told me they would be willing to appear in such a video, including one player who is considers himself bisexual.

As I have been saying all along the real problem is in the halls of power, not the terraces, and not the field of play. The FA is afraid of the ‘gay issue’ in the same way eight-year-old boys are afraid of getting “cooties” from touching the girls in primary school.

They are immature to an extreme, their minds so underdeveloped that while they are batting away the white superstar who volunteers to visibly combat racism, they are afraid to even ask many straight players to do their duty as role models in combating homophobia – and they see no irony or hypocrisy in their failings.

I want to propose something radical for you to consider.

I have mentioned at the beginning of this piece that I don’t think the effect of homophobia on the LGBT community is the crux of why we should focus on the ‘gay issue.’

I think homophobia is an important issue because of the effect it has on straight people. Homophobia is literally and figuratively killing our youngsters – especially young, straight boys.

In school, for a boy, being clever and interested in academia is gay, being kind and thoughtful is gay, being respectful to parents, authority figures or women is gay.

For a man, being sexually considerate – that is, not sleeping with everything female that moves – is gay. Having non-sexual friendships with women is gay. Being nurturing and considerate is gay. Having a friend who is gay, is gay. Choosing not to drink until you puke is gay. In football, even reading the Guardian or using words with more than three syllables is gay.

We still socially reinforce industrial revolution-style gender identity on our boys and men so that to be a ‘real man’ you must be the opposite of anything even remotely considered feminine.

We wonder why violence against women is rising? Why our boys run away from academic pursuits in school? Why they rebel against authority and steel themselves from the true expression of emotion despite the consequences?

In part they do these things because even when it’s irresponsible or illegal, such behaviour serves to reinforce that they are a ‘real man’. John Terry got in trouble because he broke ‘the code’ and slept with a team mate’s ‘property’ – not because he disrespected a woman or women in general – because that’s what ‘real men’ do.

Being remotely emotionally intelligent and even slightly able to show appropriate emotion is gay – except on the field where goal scoring celebrations often need only a little seventies music in the background to make them gay porn: kissing, hugging, lying on top of each other in intimate embrace.

Perhaps this is the real crux of the issue with the FA? We have made team sports the only place where ‘real men’ can break the gender rules and still be considered ‘real men’. and the idea of recognising that some of these men are gay is a little too close to home for those in charge of a game where straight ‘real men’ kiss and hug on a field in celebration, for straight, ‘real man’ fans in the terraces, who love it and do the same.

John Amaechi is a former NBA basketball player, New York Times best-selling author, consultant and psychologist.

Original article here