Homophobic Slang and Slurs: Part 2
February 2, 2011 § 10 Comments
After an entertaining team dinner at TGIFridays filled with laughter, tears (from laughter), and fried green beans which were surprisingly delicious, my teammates and I listened to our coach’s motivational speech. This year’s theme: “focus.” 15 hours later as I stretched with our 4×400 relay in the paddock l fell into prime pre-race focus. I swear its a zen like state where everything around you is blocked out. Its just you and the track.
Nerves ran high as our last race of the day approached. My teammates and I already re-qualified for states in the 4×200 and each of us held a new individual state qualification for our open events. Excitement coursed through our veins. Pressure built all around us. This last race would be the final highlight of an already stellar day and we would let nothing ruin it.
Yet even as I intensely prepared, my ears became shocked by the slang which seemingly echoed from a nearby relay team. Their outright dissing of gays rang through my head and momentarily broke my pre-race focus. The relay was chortling over their ingenuous idea: gay guys are fags for getting boners when seeing athletes like them in spandex. “At least fags can’t race track” their teammate threw in.
I chuckled at the false thought as I stood right by them in my own speed suit – a uniform like wrestling onesies made for speed. Sweat rolled from my forehead onto my spikes as I continued to prepare my body for the race, stretching my legs upon a table and realigning my mind – a feat slightly more difficult as my mind already raced with thoughts on their abrasive statements.
For years I have ran against guys in spandex and not once while racing or in the paddock have I lost my mind to lust. To assume we have nothing else on our mind is unfair and to assume we are ill-equipped to run well is rude. Such statements used to annoy me, as did similar attitudes towards gays, but knowing our relay could better our current state seat time – I chose to hone in on my race instead of question their thoughts They would not remove my focus as I ran with my team… for my team.
Only five feet from them, I could have said something. I could have opened my mouth and let a fiery retort flame forth. Heck, I could even prove they were wrong right then and there. But I didn’t. Instead I shrugged it off and ran my race, leading off our relay which took 2nd place. I may be a gay athlete who recognizes the need for visibility in sports, one who stops teammates from using gay slang, one who understands the importance of taking a stand; at that moment, I was a gay athlete who needed to excel for his team and that is what i tried to do. My teammates deserved it. I deserved it.
While I agree that the perception of gay guys in sports ought to be changed, there are many proper ways to begin this change. Asking a teammate to stop using negative gay slang is one. Beating a homophobic relay on the track is another.
Is the power of words greater than that of action? I’m still not sure. But in the given situation, I’m glad I ran focused and did not speak out. What would you do?