Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Way We Play

My favorite hetero couple in the world (who at times have acted like surrogate parents/older siblings to me) and I are engaged in an interesting debate about the Gay Games that are set to take place in Chicago on July 15th.

My friends live in Chicago and they've been happily married for one year (read about their fab wedding on my travel blog, in the entry marked July 24, 2005.); they are open-minded, kind, sopisticated and loaded. So of course their opinion matters.

I'll let Mike, a lawyer, make his case first. I'll chime in after...

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Ok, just want to make sure that my wife isn't misrepresenting my feelings on the Gay Games so that I come off as a shallow, frat-boy, bigot (guilty on the first two, but not that last charge :)).

My "objection" to the games is based on my understanding that the games organizers present this event as a true athletic competition and not a "pride" or community event. I think that by doing this it actually plays into the stereotype that sexuality has anything to do with athletic ability (clearly it does not). This type of event runs the risk of characterizing homosexuality as a type of handicap that prohibits athletes from participating in mainstream athletic events. The obvious (and yes cynical and nefarious) connection can be drawn to the special olympics- i.e those athletes are inherently different and less athletic and can not compete on a level playing field with other athletes, so the playing field needs to be altered in order for these athletes to participate.

I know that this is very Republican of me, but this is the same argument that can be made against hate crime legislation and affirmative action- i.e the minute society starts providing separate "protections" or standards for any class of people, those separations signal that the segment of the population that it applies to is somehow less capable and in need of the extra protection. Now, you can make a million very good arguments that this approach is needed in connection with punishment for criminal activity, access to education and employment opportunities, etc. however, if you look at it this way, it may do more harm than good when it comes to something as trivial as athletic competition.

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First of all, this is the longest comment EVER on my three-week-old blog, so I want to thank Mr. Mike for taking the time to share his views.

That said, I'm sure the organizers of the games would want everyone to see this as one of the largest community events in the world that uses athleticism and sportsmanship to make a case for inclusion and acceptance.

While creating special programs, events and legislation to protect individuals may point to a "weakness" on a minority's behalf, it also speaks to a greater problem that is the bigotted and oppressive politics promoted by a larger segment of the population. And I'm not saying that every heterosexual white person has it in for every gay, Latino person, I'm saying that issues like race and orientation, no-brainers for a straight white person, are too broad and unnecessarily difficult for this group to process.

But these issues have been at the crux of every turning point in our nation's history. From the Civil War to the Great Depression to the Civil Rights movement, the elusive ideal of equality has been chased across battlefields, a hell-bound stockmarket and on the roads of the South..and we have yet to find it.

Here we are in 2006, and in the middle of a war, the powers that be are promoting changes to our Constitution to take away rights from groups who don't fit in. I'd definitely say that that puts my community in a weak position.

At the same time, that's not to say our community is powerless. Instead of shrinking into a corner, we are making every effort to be a visible, integral part of this nation. How patriotic, right? We're using our own money, our own connections and our own clout to celebrate our diversity, to promote an image of ourselves that is positive -- sports do bring classes to the same level -- and to encourage people who might otherwise be ashamed of who they are to embrace it and strive for success. I believe that's another Republican/puritan ideal.

And the games aren't exclusionary. Many heterosexual athletes partake of the experience, but this is a forum where teams are actually encouraged to act like teams -- players aren't alienated for who they are nor are they forced to hide who they are from their team mates.

At the heart of this debate, though, we're still using the terms "groups," "special," and "protection,"divisive terms that highlight the fact that Americans don't just see other Americans when they see their neighbors. They see labels; they see orientation, they see race, they see class -- until we do away with this outlook, every measure has to be taken to promote and celebrate diversity.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

My big problem with the gay games is that it's too inclusionary as far as individual events go. They are basically open to anyone that signs up. I know someone who ran the marathon in Sydney in '02 and finished in his usual sub-5 hour pace. (4 hours or less is a benchmark for casual marathoners.) This is like when they give out trophies to all the little league teams. But, if you don't let everyone play, then you don't get as many entry fees I guess!

Red Tulips said...

I see nothing wrong with the Gay Games. Jews have their own athletic competition, called the Maccabbee Games - organized for the same purpose of the Gay Games. You should tell that to your friend.

Berdo said...

I'm a gay, 29 year-old, politically independent guy in New York. Now that I've sufficiently lableled myself, I'd like to propose a simple idea. At the same time that the gay community is asking to be treated like everyone else (and rightly so) with regard to marriage rights, etc...would it not be a large step back to continue separating ourselves in other venues. It's difficult to make a giant point of gay-only events and then when people segregate the homosexual community in a way that we don't like - in a way that does not advance our rights - we suddenly say that we're just like you and you can't treat us differently. The moment we self-segregate based on our orientation - we open the floodgates for others to do the same - for all sorts of reason and on all sorts of issues.

Something to consider. It would be nice if once in a while we all celebrated what makes us similar to each other instead of always making the largest issues of how we are different.

Berdo said...

I'm a gay, 29 year-old, politically independent guy in New York. Now that I've sufficiently lableled myself, I'd like to propose a simple idea. At the same time that the gay community is asking to be treated like everyone else (and rightly so) with regard to marriage rights, etc...would it not be a large step back to continue separating ourselves in other venues. It's difficult to make a giant point of gay-only events and then when people segregate the homosexual community in a way that we don't like - in a way that does not advance our rights - we suddenly say that we're just like you and you can't treat us differently. The moment we self-segregate based on our orientation - we open the floodgates for others to do the same - for all sorts of reason and on all sorts of issues.

Something to consider. It would be nice if once in a while we all celebrated what makes us similar to each other instead of always making the largest issues of how we are different.

GayConservativeLiberal said...

Thanks for the post, Bardo. Agree that we should be celebrating what makes us similar to everyone else -- I'd offer the marriage debate as one example of our community trying to integrate itself into the concept of the American family.

In the meantime, I think it's great, and healthy to show that we are in fact different but not threatening.

Berdo said...

Conservative Liberal -

Posting comments on this blog is becoming a great respite from my work day!

I agree that marriage is one way we show our similiarities. Is it no surprise, then, that those who oppose gay marriage point out our differences? I would propose that events like the gay games - which I enjoy - provide fodder for those who oppose gay marriage. You can't turn on the spigot of "Look how we different we are" when it's time for the gay games and try to turn it off when we enter the gay marriage debate. Unfair? Of course it is. True nonetheless? Of course it is.