I already wrote humorously on Jason Collins and the black jockey in the Kentucky Derby this week, as well as a humble-braggish post yesterday about the week I am having, but after listening and reading to a ton of coverage of the Jason Collins story (the pro basketball player who came out as gay this week, if you have been living under a rock or camping out for good seats to Iron Man 3) I realized that I have not heard a question/answer that I am curious about: what would be wrong with a heterosexual athlete not wanting to shower and be naked with a gay man? Now on its face this might seem like a bigoted question, but in the same context I would ask why is that men and women have different locker rooms?
I raise that because the argument always goes to the extreme right away after a question like that, like by suggesting a heterosexual man might be uncomfortable with a gay man seeing him naked you are suggesting that the gay man is some sort of uncontrolled beast who will begin getting aroused or will initiate sexual contact. Is this why women and men have separate locker rooms at gyms and at colleges? Because there is an implicit understanding that without that barrier men will simply begin to masturbate, flirt and perhaps sexually assault nude women in their presence? I don’t think so. I think there is just a desire for a sexuality-free zone in what is otherwise a very intimate setting and I am not sure why it would be wrong, even if impossible to implement, for a heterosexual athlete to want the same feeling around same-sex teammates.
And put this in the context of pro sports. These are men who are physical specimens – the most well built and physically fit humans on the planet in American professional sports. They are exaggerations of masculinity when compared to the general population. So it is no shame that a gay man would find this appealing. This, in no way, is suggesting some lack of control on the part of Jason Collins or other gay athletes. But from the perspective of the heterosexual athlete, why is automatically a hateful point to be raised that someone does not want to shower with people that are sexually attracted to them (or could conceivably be), for whom they do not reciprocate? I am not endorsing this point of view, but I am endorsing it as a somewhat reasonable feeling that some athletes might have and it should not immediately render them a pariah in the enlightened avenues of modern society.
Now, unfortunately, many professional athletes are not articulate or intelligent enough to convey what might be a more nuanced discomfort with having a gay teammate. And some are outright homophobes and bigots (or uncomfortable with their own sexuality). And on the other side of the spectrum are erudite athletes who either have no problem with it or are too smart to say that they have any issue with it. But there is no doubt in my mind that if an athlete tweeted “I have no problem with a gay teammate, but I don’t feel like being naked around him.” he would be bashed, criticized and called ignorant, stupid, a homophobe and a lot of other things while his team and league would have to apologize for him. But why is that a completely unreasonable position or feeling?
My basic question is why does fully accepting people of different sexual orientations have to mean that you must be 100% comfortable with their orientation in the most personal moments of your own life? I only raise this because I would be much more interested in hearing a debate on this more specific question than the usual “are you okay with a gay teammate” or “do you have a problem with gay people” generic questions. Now it already appears that many teammates of Collins (and other closeted gay athletes) have no issue with this. And that is great. But I don’t think a different viewpoint on this somewhat specific question is as pernicious as I am sure social media would treat it.