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.