Now that the smoke has cleared from the firestorm over the gay slurs uttered by Kobe Bryant, Joachim Noah and Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell, we’re left with questions about what it all means for the average guy just trying to get along in the world. While sports often mirror life, real guys we talked to have more tolerant opinions.
“I’m a gay man and I see no problem with homophobes,” says Jonathan Jones, 33, of Chicago. “They are just speaking their minds. We want the players to play for our entertainment but not have enough balls to speak their minds. Too many in this country want everything nice and easy and don’t like having to deal with things.”
“Everyone’s sexuality is their own business,” adds Michael Waldo, 23, of Orlando. “I had several gay friends in the military and I didn’t think any differently about them, as long as they did their part of the work. I don’t understand how men can be mad at homosexuals. If anything they should be ecstatic—it means more women for us!”
For more perspective, we turned to an expert, Amy Alpine, PhD, a Seattle-based psychotherapist and sexologist. Here, she sheds some light on the controversy and how to handle your own feelings.
MADE MAN: In the past several weeks, two jocks and one ex-jock have been slapped down for uttering gay slurs. In 2011, does their behavior surprise you?
AMY ALPINE: No. It is a typical male fear to be perceived as anything less than a macho, tough guy who never has to ask for help and doesn’t appear weak. Unfortunately, that’s what our society presses upon young men. For jocks, it doesn’t have to do with homosexuality; it has to do with trying to call somebody weak. Like when you say someone throws or runs like a girl.
MM: Was the response (big fines for Bryant and Noah and suspension for McDowell) appropriate?
AA: Yes. Like any kind of racial or gender or sexuality slur, you have to have consequences to that to say it’s not OK to say derogatory things about somebody that has a history and is used to oppression. We still have to fight these fights. We have to move to the direction of equality.
MM: At the same time, the Suns’ GM recently came out. How far do you think we are from an active player in a major U.S. sport coming out?
AA: I think there are a lot of closeted people who are very famous and for them to come out and stand tall is helpful for everybody, for our society to realize that there are these people that we worship, that we’re enamored with, that we strive to be … that homosexual is as normal as heterosexual.
MM: Do you think pro athletes feel threatened by homosexuality more than the average guy does?
AA: Yes, because they fear they will lose their friends, their fan base and the respect of the other players.
MM: What triggers such negative reactions from some heterosexual men when they are complimented or hit on by a gay man?
AA: I think it’s that fear of being perceived as gay, and the connotation that gay means weak or feminine and the opposite of the macho, tough, and able to handle anything. Male homosexuality is less accepted than lesbianism. Men appreciate that. Most porn that’s viewed is girl on girl.
MM: What does a guy’s intrinsic reaction to being hit on say about his sexuality?
AA: There’s research that, typically, if you’re homophobic, you have some tendencies toward homosexuality. Interestingly, since sexuality is fluid, we all have the tendency but we don’t want to be called out. If you have a vehement reaction, it may be because there’s something in the past. Those who flip out, it may be a sign of shame about their own sexuality or desires. Those who are flattered are more confident and comfortable with their sexuality.
MM: What’s the best way for a straight guy to handle getting hit on by a gay man?
AA: Kiss him on the lips and say thank you.
[Note: We didn’t think that answer was too realistic, so we asked Jones. He said he’d rather hear: “ ‘Buddy, I’m not into that.’ Just be plain and simple. Or you can say, ‘I’m flattered, but I’m not into it.’ ”]
MM: How can a heterosexual man tell if he is truly secure with his sexuality?
AA: If they are open. Sex is about pleasure, so the more we can be open to exploration, I think the better off we are. To be secure is to be open.