Monday, April 29, 2013

Some Thoughts on Jason Collins and What it Means to be a Man

So, previously and relatively obscure NBA player Jason Collins dropped a bombshell on the world: he's gay.

Which makes him the first active male American athlete to come out (men's national team soccer player Robbie Rogers did come out earlier this year, but he also retired in doing so).

And boom goes the dynamite.

By and large, there has been a great swelling of support for Jason, which is heartening to see, and which has loomed over the smattering of trolls who are taking potshots over the news (such as comparing the reaction to his coming out to the abortion horrors perpetrated by Kermit Gosnell.  No, I'm not making that up).

But probably the coolest support I saw came in the form of this pictorial article from the Gen Y-adored time-wasting website Buzzfeed.


Because it hacks a mighty big swing at what I have to think underlines a significant chunk of the Christian right's homophobia: the myth that gay men are all limp-wristed, girly-girl pansies.

In other words, it's the myth that gay men are not, you know, real men.  Manly men.  Like Christian men clearly are, with their battle-themed God ("Onward Christian Soldiers," anyone?) or, more recently, bragging on their "smoking hot wives."

All of which I find amusing, in an odd sort of way.  Because what I still sometimes hear, in reference to gay men, is a sentiment something along the lines of: "I don't care what you do in private, just don't rub it in my face."

But we Christian men are perfectly fine rubbing our heterosexism in the world's face on Twitter, Facebook...wherever social media allows us to basically act like a drunken King Xerxes in the first chapter of Esther, demanding that his smoking hot wife and queen, Vashti, be brought out in her crown so that his similarly drunken entourage (who probably wouldn't stand a chance today with Dotcom and Grizz) could ogle her.

So let's be honest: we're perfectly fine rubbing what we do in private in one another's faces...just as long as it doesn't gross us out.

I'm just wondering why there is the need for any of it to begin with.

I mean, sure, I get the notion that the fear is the wish.  But I don't think that's quite it.  I think the fear is that it isn't enough to simply be a man, we have to strut it, like we're peacocks instead of humans.

Now, don't get me wrong: I love so, so much about being a man that it is completely worth the decreased life expectancy and vulnerability to toddlers wielding wiffle-ball bats.  I love the bass timbre of my singing voice.  I love having a beard to thoughtfully stroke while I ponder the nature of God.  I love not having to ever deal with bra shopping.  All of this is great.  I love it.

But I also have never felt the need to impress the point that I'm a dude in my behaviors.  I have always figured I didn't need to advertise my masculinity to demonstrate it.  In other words, it's a tautology: I am a man, I self-identify as a man, so I'm masculine by definition.

And one of the great hopes I have with this new thing of male athletes coming out of the closet is that maybe we can finally put out to pasture one of the oldest and most harmful stereotypes in the book: that you can tell a man's sexual orientation based on how he behaves or acts out.  

It's the old Breakfast Club lesson, updated from the 1980s: it isn't that one of us is a jock, and one of us is a nerd, and a burnout, etc., and that is the only thing we can be.

Except that there is not merely only one thing a gay man can be.

There is not merely only one thing a straight man can be.

There is not merely only one thing that any man can be, other than simply being a man, fearfully and wonderfully made by God.

Thanks be to God for that.

Yours in Christ,

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