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Sports and The Gay Community
We Americans love our sports. This is particularly true for the holy triumvirate of football, baseball and basketball. These are multi-billion dollar industries. The Super Bowl, World Series and the NBA finals are major cultural events that draw millions of viewers. Professional athletes are revered as superhuman heroes. Yet is it fair to say that the gay community’s relationship with sports may be fraught with conflict? Notwithstanding the highly public coming out of athletes such as football player Michael Sam and basketball player Jason Collins and the visibility of such out figures as soccer player Robbie Rogers, there are still very few out athletes in professional sports. The perception is that the sports world is a repository of machismo and homophobia, leaving many gay athletes fearful of coming out. At the same time, is it fair to say that the majority of gay men have relatively little interest in sports, particularly team sports? How many gay men have said they dreaded phys ed class when they were a kid? How many would say they couldn’t be bothered to watch the Super Bowl and if they did, it was only to watch the commercials or the half-time show? Is it fair to say that the majority of gay men do not enjoy participating or watching team sports like football or basketball? If there is some grain of truth to this, why might this be the case? Are there qualities of sports that turn off the average gay man? Is it the aggressiveness? The competitiveness? Do straight women feel the same? Or are all of these perceptions mere stereotypes? Perhaps, there are more gay men than we realize who actually not only enjoy watching sports but actively played when they were in high school or college. Is their visibility limited merely by homophobia evident in the sports world? Do these sports-inclined gay men feel like minorities in the gay community? Are things different when it comes to individual sports like tennis and track and field? Are some sports more “gay”, e.g. Figure skating? Are all of these stereotypes reversed when it comes to lesbians? Starter Questions/More Info 1. Link to fun cartoon depicting the experience of one gay man's experiences with athletics. 2. Have you ever experienced homophobia on a sports team? How did you react? 3. What role did sports play in your life growing up? Does sports play a role in your life now? If sports doesn't play a role in your life, what about sports doesn't interest you? 4. Sports has a reputation for not being very popular among gays. At the core of it, sports is about competition. The gay community has embraced RuPaul's Drag Race, which is a competition among drag queens. How come competitions like Rupaul's Drag Race are popular with gay men, and yet sports are not? 5. Sports, especially team sports, has the power to bring people together, to be on the same page and play as one. However, it can also serve to alienate people on a team, especially if you aren't out. What have your experiences been like playing on a team? 6. Professional Sports- In a corporate sense, professional sports leagues support the LGBT community. All major sports leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL) have gay-friendly initiatives to include the community. The NFL also threatened to never have the Super Bowl in Georgia if it passed an anti-LGBT law. However, there has yet to be an openly gay athlete competing as a professional. The athletes from these leagues have come out after they retired. Why do you think this is and what are the barriers that are preventing players from coming out during their careers? 7. Greg Louganis was one of America’s most successful divers, winning four gold medals. However, he did not want to come out publicly as a competitor because he didn’t want to be known as the “gay” diver. Given that he is a role model as an athlete, is that a fair

San Francisco Buddhist Center

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"Gay Intellectual Salon is an intentional community that engages members in conversations that stimulate thoughtfulness, explore new ideas and examine myths and taboos. We seek to spark insight and new understanding into Queer issues and to concerns that affect us all as humans. Gay Intellectual Salon creates a safe, fun space to exchange ideas and perspectives on topics of concern to the gay community and to society at-large."

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