When Edmonton Capitals Manager Brent Bowers went on a homophobic tirade against a gay umpire, the sports world hardly took notice. It took the courage of the umpire's heterosexual colleagues to denounce Bowers's hate speech by threatening a league boycott before North American Golden Baseball League management took significant action and ultimately suspended Bowers for the remainder of the season. Bowers reportedly resigned, before being fired by Edmonton Capitals management.
This event stands in marked contrast to a recent U.K. survey, as reported in the Guardian on Aug. 8, which stated that eight out of 10 football fans (soccer to those of us in North America) thought an openly gay player would have a similarly positive impact as black players had on racism in football in the 1980s and 1990s. In the same survey, 25 per cent of the coaches, players and referees surveyed stated they knew a gay player; yet there are no "out" premier league footballers.
In 2006, Sports Illustrated surveyed just over 1,400 players, from all four major professional North American men's team sports (hockey, football, basketball and baseball), and asked the question: "Would you welcome an openly gay teammate?" NHL hockey players were the most progressive, with 79.9 per cent saying "Yes," followed by baseball (61.5 per cent), basketball (59.6 per cent) and football (56.9 per cent).
If we believe these surveys to be accurate reflections of changing societal values, why are there no "out" gay male athletes within these professional team sports? And why do we still have such shocking displays of homophobia from public sporting figures such as Bowers?
Kristopher Wells is a PhD doctoral scholar at the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services, University of Alberta.
The epistemic contract of bisexual erasure.
Stanford Law Review - January 1, 2000
Stanford Law Review - January 1, 2000
Teaching a seminar on Sexual Orientation and the Law, I faced an old inconsistency so frontally that it became difficult to avoid giving it sustained attention. I began the course in what appears to be a common way,(1) by posing basic questions about sexual orientation. I asked why contemporary American society(2) organizes people according to their sexualities;(3) why we do so on the basis of sexual orientation in particular;(4) and why, when classifying by sexual orientation, we insist on doing so with the binary system of heterosexual and homosexual.(5) In discussing the last question, I adduced the view--powerful in modern American culture from at least the publication of the Kinsey studies(6) onward--that sexual orientation arrays itself along a continuum from exclusive heterosexuality to exclusive homosexuality.(7) I noted that this view encouraged us to think of the straight/gay binary as defining the ends of a continuum that could be stretched, accordion-like, to accommodate ever finer gradations of cross-sex and same-sex desire. This meant recognizing a group often called bisexuals--on the intermediate stretch of the continuum, as well as the possibility of a group--sometimes called asexuals--not represented on the continuum at all.(8) Indeed, I argued that sexual orientation classifications that only used the two "monosexual" terms(9) "heterosexual" and "homosexual" were unstable and naive.
As soon as the introductory unit was over, however, the inconsistency occurred. I found myself and the class falling back into the very "unstable" usages I had worked hard to retire--specifically the usages of the words "heterosexual" and "homosexual" as mutually exclusive, cumulatively exhaustive terms.(10) While we sometimes rallied by using the word "queer" instead of "gay,"(11) or by adding the rider "or bisexual" to "gay,"(12) these efforts were token and fitful. In the face of legal discussions(13) and academic commentary(14) that were relentless in reifying the straight/gay binary, it was difficult to hold the bisexual steadily visible, even as a spectral possibility. And while this failure to resist what I had criticized as a distortion was striking in a class that sought to treat the issue of sexual orientation with sophistication, it was simultaneously all too recognizable as an inconsistency that fiddles more quotidian discourse. Many who would not deny that bisexuals exist when the subject of bisexuality arises can nonetheless revert to the straight/gay dichotomy when the topic shifts.(15) I myself can speak at length about bisexuals at one moment and then, in the next, field a question such as "Is X straight or gay?" without instinctively feeling as if an important possibility--the bisexual possibility--has been elided.
What is happening here? Why is bisexuality so invisible? If we interpret that invisibility as the product of erasure, why does that erasure occur? Why is bisexuality now becoming sufficiently visible that commentators have begun to theorize its invisibility as the result of erasure? How might contemporary sexual orientation politics and law look different if this trend toward visibility continues? This article will occupy itself with these questions.
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