Thursday, April 12, 2007

Gay coach hopes to level playing field...

An article in the Springfield Newsleader about a gay coach in Columbia Mo. that came out, how he got to that point, and how things have been since. Oh, and my comment.

My comment:

"Wow. What a powerful story. Many thanks to Alan Scher Zagier and the Newsleader for this story!

First, I want to say I have a lot of respect for Coach Hawkins for what he went through, and for having seemingly ‘came out’ of it very well. He shows a lot of strength and character in having handled it as well as he did, and for having faced all the fear and hostility that comes with being honest with oneself and others. It’s a lot of unique emotions and dilemmas to endure, more than most folks, other than gays, can relate to. But he did, and he’s involved in a world {teaching, sports} where homosexuals are barely recognized at all, especially in such a conservative area as this.

Second I want to commend University of Missouri for not overreacting to having a gay coach and all the real and potential controversy and pressure that must bring to the university from social conservatives. I hope they do so both because it is the right thing to do and because the coach is one worth keeping. That is the right reasons for making this a non-issue.

Third, I want to point out that it is very important for men like Coach Hawkins to come out because it helps dispel some of the myths about homosexuals. Not that it really matters whether one’s mannerisms fit social norms or not, but I think most folks have such definite stereotypes about homosexuals and don’t realize that a great many of us, perhaps the majority of us don’t exhibit the outward stereotypical signs heterosexuals tend to assume we do.

There are many things about this story that I think were important, but one of those is that it described how anti-gay jokes are offensive and can hurt the feelings of others. In my experiences I’ve found that they are so commonplace in the media, movies, among comedians, songs, around the water cooler. I do wish that more people would realize how what seems like a joke to them are actually insulting or hurtful to others. And while folks may think they only make such cracks around non-gays, many of us don’t fit the stereotypes at all and so they really don’t know how often they are interacting with us. Some of those good, honest people who have earned a great deal of respect in their community and among their peers are also not heterosexual. Other than that, they are likely all the things that others took them to be. And then some.

I particularly thought two of the Coach’s statements showed a lot of character, "If you're treating it as special, you're still not treating it as equal," Hawkins said. "If I sit my kids down and say, 'Let's talk about my sexuality' ... What straight coach does that?" and “If you're gonna make a decision based on a coach, make a decision based on the coach's coaching ability,” There is so much truth in that. The coach should be measured by his ability. And homosexuality doesn’t need special treatment, it needs equal treatment. That means no hiding, no shame, no disgrace, no judgment, no discrimination. We’re here just like heterosexual folks are, seeking the same ambitions, recognition, respect, and fair consideration.

I must say, another thing I found positive about the story is that for those players that quit, for unknown reasons though some of which was undoubtedly the sexuality of the coach, at least they will be replaced by players who apparently feel a need to be part of a team they will be accepted in. It’s a shame it has to come to that, but both the coach and the players have every right to be judged for their ability, not their orientation, and if that means they largely have to flock to one team then so be it.

There was only a few things in the story I found truly disappointing. One was in reading that some of those on the team say that it’s “awkward”. While it is understandable considering the negative stigma in society, it really shouldn’t be any more awkward than for an all white team saying, “it’s awkward that the coach is black.”

Another point that was even more disappointing was the outright bigotry in some coaches urging the rejection of rival schools who have a gay coach. There is no excuse in this level of irrational prejudice. What the hell does a sport have to do with this? Maybe it’s an excuse to not have to face a winning team? Or maybe it’s just homophobia by certain folks who aren’t very secure in their own sexuality. . ."

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