Being gay in the locker room — and beyond

I knew that I wasn’t going to be a star athlete in sports medicine, but I started learning how to become a trainer for people who needed their wrists and ankles taped, etc. I enjoyed the idea of camaraderie and tried to make myself better, but I wasn’t the best at it. I also played basketball and football in high school, as well as ran track. I played T-ball in a rec league that eventually turned into soccer. In some ways, I was just a typical small-town kid.

I grew up in a small blue-collar town of about 1,200 people, with a focus on farming, in rural Kansas in the ’90s and 1980s. When I graduated from high school, there were fewer than 300 students enrolled in my class.

I had a ton of embarrassments and secrets growing up in my dysfunctional family. Our financial woes added to the mix. Boys and girls liked the fact that I was a part of that.

I was in there, embracing the fact that I was okay to be in the locker room. I wasn’t exactly like those stereotypes, even though I was sometimes labeled as gay. The girl who wore plaid and appeared less feminine debated with the well-spoken guy. Basically, there were suggestions and whispers among us that I might be gay due to those stereotypes. However, in high school, there was no one with whom I had any gay-related experiences. I didn’t have the ability to dance and I didn’t have a lisp. I also didn’t have a sense of fashion. I wasn’t the stereotypical gay person that was portrayed in the media and on TV while growing up.

Banished and ostracized from the world of sports, I would constantly fear that my secret would be exposed each day.

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Are you interested in a game or practice? The locker rooms are filled with coarse language and ribald comments. It’s a place where you can learn a lot about life. Additionally, there is a silent amount of sizing-up between each other. There is an established pecking order. Who is beyond belief ripped? Who needs to lose a few pounds? There are eyes roving with self-doubt or admiration.

For some, those wandering eyes are also filled with apprehension.

Homosexual. A homosexual and “effeminate” because he was exerting maximum effort indicating that a player wasn’t or labeling the opposing team as such by boosting his own team was a method to challenge a man’s masculinity. Coaches and players in the locker rooms of my upbringing frequently used the term “homosexual”. The most effortless approach to insinuate his sexual orientation is to belittle others in order to elevate oneself, which is commonly observed in a locker room environment.

Discover that you don’t want to. There is so much fear of a different kind, that the word “faggot” is punctuated in a locker room, but there is also a potential fear like candy to the homophobic, as if there is a strange place when you happen to be a gay athlete.

The stock’s draftability plummeted overnight. There was a significant deal about why his personal safety was being discussed, with comments about being naked in a locker room appearing from familiar refrains, while receiving support from all corners. Sam Michael, a defensive lineman from Missouri and a prospect for the NFL, was a perfect-pitch PR blitz. We are once again reminded of the presence of gay individuals in the locker room.

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It’s the same repetitive routine.

However, there is something slightly unique this time.

This time there is a drive behind it. There is a wider consciousness, even if it is a whisper.

Despite significant shifts in public opinion regarding same-sex marriage, certain states in the U.S. Continue to discriminate against LGBT individuals by denying them employment, housing, and fundamental rights. Meanwhile, in Nigeria and Uganda, where specific legislation exists, LGBT individuals face severe consequences such as imprisonment and even execution. Russia also enforces brutal crackdowns on homosexuality and what they label as “gay propaganda.” The Winter Games held in Sochi shed light on the ongoing dangers that LGBT individuals face, as indicated by the headlines preceding the event, thereby exposing a wider global audience to these very real threats.

We belong to the same group as you. We currently communicate after a long period of staying quiet and feeling scared. Every homosexual individual who comes forward demonstrates that we are part of your social circle, community, relatives, and role models, thereby giving a tangible representation to the matter.

It’s perhaps why it has been a big deal for me to be an honest ambassador of what I like and show all the warts and gayness.

That is the reason why it is still a significant matter when an individual from the LGBT community reveals their sexual orientation.

Whether it be in your workplace, neighborhood, NFL locker room, or high school locker room, there is someone who is truly terrified of the consequences.

Scott Ladd is the Austin American-Statesman’s Presentation Editor. He wrote this for his blog, Ambient Noise, after NFL hopeful Michael Sam announced he is gay.

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