How My Acknowledged Sexuality Altered My Perceived Athletic Ability

January 11, 2012 § 7 Comments

“I can’t wait till the day when an athlete will come out… and it won’t be a big news story,” I hear often enough. “I’ll love it when people just WON’T CARE,” people say and understandably so. It seems a fair way to rate our lgbtq community’s progress is through judging the impact, or lack there of, that people have when they come out. It is obvious that the impact a professional athlete coming out is greater than that of say… an HGTV designer (depending on who he is). For many people, designers are one profession saturated with enough openly gay people that it comes as no surprise. They make a smaller impact thus showing more progress has been made in their professional field.

But I think another way to view progress is through looking at judgements made when a person’s homosexuality is acknowledged. What jobs people expect them to have and what potential is immediately annihilated for gays, this of course being most relevant for undergrad students and grade schoolers. At Georgetown, it seems much progress is still demanding to be made. As I have personally experienced, people don’t expect a gay athlete to compete at the D1 level as much as I would have hoped.

My first few weeks at Georgetown were filled with subtle shocks, the likes of which I haven’t faced before. During my first week of classes at Georgetown University I experienced the strain that merging two supposedly different identities into one can create for others. Apparently, being a collegiate athlete can shape the ways others view your sexuality with greater ease than I have explaining it (which I think I’m pretty adept at by now!). When initially meeting others I don’t typically introduce myself as “Craig Cassey – the gay blogger” or “Craig Cassey – the track runner” merely Craig Cassey. But as conversations continued with students whom I met, eventually those two pieces of information came out, its certainly not information I hide, and I take pride in my involvement with both.

Now all throughout these conversations, first impressions are being made. The week prior to school, during a pre-orientation program, I met 54 people who I became extremely close with – and we discussed openly our first impressions of each other. Turns out, I can rock a “metro-but-straight” vibe relatively well, though my oh-so erect posture alarmed others’ gaydars relatively quickly. For most, it was left as an unanswered question or they thought I was straight. Basically, I’m a masculine gay guy with enough flare to seem potentially gay. This offers a nice base with which to compare the scenarios that occurred once school began, which struck me as most surprising, though perhaps I should have anticipated it more:

When meeting new people on campus…

Those who learned I was an athlete first, seemed to think I was “straighter” than before – they were more likely to believe I was just metro and not a gay athlete. If they were a girl, they were much more likely to flirt.

Those who learned I was gay first, seemed to think by “running track” I meant “planned to join the running club,” not actually compete on Georgetown’s track and field team… something which happened repeatedly.

Now I admit that I don’t shove my athleticism down other’s throats. I don’t tout my athletic garb around everywhere I can (very few athletes do at Georgetown) and I am not constantly steering conversations in the direction of track, or more importantly, my previous successes in track. Much like I don’t shove my homosexuality down other’s throats. But I never thought that my acknowledged homosexuality would deter people, or at least their flash-judgements, so easily from visioning me a D1 athlete – especially people my own age! So it seems there is much progress left to be made in this aspect at Georgetown.

Thankfully, the more others got to know me, the less resistant their initial judgements towards the potential reality of a gay D1 athlete became. I still meet some people who seem surprised to learn that I am a gay runner, not just a club athlete but that I compete for the “actual” team. This just provides more of an opportunity for me to create some conversation and hopefully… inspire some change.

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§ 7 Responses to How My Acknowledged Sexuality Altered My Perceived Athletic Ability

  • JC Sanborn says:

    Welcome back to the blogosphere! I’ve missed your posts – they tend to be thought provoking and cause personal reflection, which I like.

    Gotta admit, I’m one of those waiting for a current athlete in a high-profile sport to come out as gay. I think it’ll do wonders for fellow gay athletes and sport, including dispel the ‘gays aren’t athletes’ stereotyping that you’re experiencing. Right now, it’s ok to be gay if you’re an equestrian or figure skater, but not in the more “macho” sports. I suspect when one person comes out we’ll see more within the next several weeks or months.

    My gut tells me that your fellow students have never met a gay athlete, so don’t know what to think. It hasn’t occurred to them that it’s possible to be both because we haven’t had the high profile individual demonstrate that it’s indeed possible. Which begs the question, how have your teammates taken it?

    BTW, there were rumors a couple years ago about an upcoming 800m runner, whose name you’ll probably recognize, as being gay. I haven’t gotten it confirmed, so won’t say the name in this public forum, but it’s possible there’s a fellow collegiate mid-distance runner at or near the international level that’s gay.

    If it were only so easy to look at somebody’s posture and say “he’s gay” or “he’s straight.” My gaydar would probably work a lot better!

    Good luck with the rest of the track season – hope it’s going well.

    Jeff

    • Craig says:

      Thank you Jeff! I know its been a while but I am making an effort to post much more frequently now that my first semester of classes/homework have changed into a more… enjoyable workload.

      My teammates have taken it pretty well. We do have a few other gay athletes at Georgetown just not as open with it via the internet as I am hahah. I’ll be writing about that in the future. I admit my relation with the team is different than most athletes but its not due to my sexuality, more to my limited time and diverse friend group.

      I really do look forward to the day when a top-ranking athlete comes out, but till than we ought to help make progress where we can. Now if that 800m runner were to come out… I’m not sure how great the impact it would have, but it would be a catalyst for some change and something I would like to see.

  • Alan E. says:

    Keep breaking down barriers!

    • Alan E. says:

      Shoot. I hit post too early. How has your perceived sexuality altered your athletic ability? You point out how it has affected your perceived ability (and vice verse), but has it affected your actual ability as well?

      • Craig says:

        Good point Alan, thanks for the comment – I changed the title and will add something in to the end of the post to talk about that as well. Honestly, it hasn’t changed anything (as one would expect) but it does offer a new motivation set to rely upon when training. The idea that people believe you are lesser and hold you back in their mind can work wonders for some people in terms of motivation, as they attempt to fight against such thoughts , though I admit it isn’t one that I rely upon often. So not much change indeed.

  • david says:

    it makes me proud to know that you are out as a d1 college athlete..

    i was out as a young man on a couple of straight rec hockey teams.. never played in college.. (i guess i would have had to go to university to play there..) no chance to ever turn pro.. ive always been very aware of my self image and of how i think others perceive me.. being a jock made me feel like a real man.. and i wanted others to see me that way as well.. i also wanted my teammates to know exactly who i was.. that gay or straight a man is a man, an athlete, a brother.. a trusted part of the team.. i was and they knew it.. they showed it.. i took a huge risk by being out.. they had my back.. the thats so gay! and you cocksucker! taunts directed at the other teams players stopped or decreased as well (at least when i was around) after i came out.. i was really shocked.. i think i was lucky though.. i can fight on the ice if need be.. i think if i had been more obviously queer things might have been different.. idk..
    so…
    would your self-definition and self-image be more sports obvious if you played a team sport like hockey or baseball? would you be out as a d1 athlete if you played a team sport? would you be out if you had the potential to turn pro in said sport?

    ~ cheers…

  • Dan Woog says:

    Great, insightful post, Craig. Just a few years ago, an out athlete of any kind, at any school, in any sport, would have been bombshell news. Now it’s a story with nuance and grace. A few years from now, it will be a complete non-story.

    Congratulations on all you’ve accomplished. Thanks for paving the way for those who will follow you. Keep rockin’ Georgetown, and the world!

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