Non-gay? Not gay enough? Why oh why is the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance witch-hunting its own members? The LGBT community has plenty of problems without cannibalizing itself: there are attacks from religious fundamentalists of all persuasions and from Fox Snooze; there is inaction around LGBT issues by the Obama administration; and then there is the Catholic Church blaming its criminality on queers.
Let the Advocate introduce the story:
Three Bay Area amateur softball players are suing a national gay sports association for alleged discrimination after officials questioned their sexuality and disqualified them following a 2008 championship game.
In a rare instance of an LGBT legal advocacy group suing a gay organization, the National Center for Lesbian Rights on Tuesday filed suit on behalf of the players in U.S. district court for the western district of Washington. According to the complaint, NCLR alleges that the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Association (NAGAAA) broke state public accommodations law by enforcing a discriminatory rule that only two heterosexuals can play on each team.
So one team accuses the other team of having too many straights. Let me pause there, because this concept boggles the mind. What’s the issue? Do straight athletes give a team an advantage? Are they likely to be superior to gay athletes? Short of a sophisticated deconstruction of how homophobia in sports and the bullying of gay athletes affects that group of sportspeople overall, we can only wonder at the self-hatred contained in that assumption. Next the NAGAAA hastens to grill the accused. How is this witch-hunt conducted?
Following the game, five D2 players were summoned one by one to a windowless room filled with more than 25 people and questioned by NAGAAA delegates about their sexuality. “There was a six-person panel, but the rest of the people there had no business being there,” Rowen said. “This was a room of people assembled because they wanted to see this go down.”
Charles and co-plaintiffs Steven Apilado and Jon Russ said that NAGAAA officials read definitions of “heterosexual” and “gay” and asked which word applied to them. When Charles answered both, an official allegedly told him, “This is the Gay World Series, not the Bisexual World Series.” When asked the same set of questions, Russ declined to answer.
Of course the packed room and the nasty interrogation in front of a couple of dozen onlookers is a bit macabre, but my curiosity is aroused by the idea of any group being confident of knowing the precise “definitions” of straight and gay. Seriously, there is no agreement whatsoever on these categories, not the least because they can be fluid. The nature/nurture (born/made/choose) debate over sexuality is far from resolved. The outlaw/assimilationist concepts of non-straightness will always remain a fault-line in queer discussions.
This issue of what constitutes “straight” got exposed for the slippery identity it is during the days of community outreach around HIV prevention. Organizers found that many men who got off with other men totally identified as “straight” – they were often married to women, had children and lived their lives as pure heterosexuals. The problem was that they were also having anonymous sex with men in parks or restrooms or club backrooms. A whole new concept of sexuality was developed in order to try to reach those guys with information about staying safe. They were known by the literal if awkward phrase: men who have sex with men. Would they fit into NAGAAA’s concept of “straight?”
Women, too, fudge the idea of straightness. In many countries (including sections of the USA), homophobia prevents women from acting on their real lesbian feelings. Many women marry because of heavy social pressure. In some cases, gay men and lesbians agree to marry in order to act as each other’s beards – their cover for secret queer lives.
Narrow identity politics may be good for kick-starting a new movement and raising a formerly unknown consciousness, but it ain’t a vehicle for the long-haul. Human sexuality simply does not adhere to “narrow.” A single-issue perspective blocks out very real social intersections. Perhaps that’s why many LGBT groups appear unable to live up to the B (bi) and the T (trans) and the L (lesbian). That leaves a very particular G group.
But wait! Unsurprisingly, the plot thickens:
The three plaintiffs in the case were voted to be “nongay” and were subsequently disqualified.
Two white players from D2 were also questioned about their sexual orientation but were not disqualified. NCLR alleges that race may have been a motivating factor in the decision to disqualify its clients (two are African-American, and one is of African-American and Filipino descent).
So, only the people of color couldn’t make the queerness grade, is that it? I have seen the distasteful line: “This is the Gay World Series, not the Bisexual World Series” quoted dozens of times on Facebook and in articles, but nowhere have I seen a discussion of this sad saga’s racial element. Just as so many women and men homos seem to have trouble embracing bisexuals and transgendered people, and as a portion of gay men forget there are lesbians on the earth, so too is this movement reluctant to look seriously at the racism that queers of color face within it.
As I searched for images to accompany this posting, I found a series of posters (left) for what appears to be a very gay softball team in California, where all of this came down. There were posters of individual models – hunky men caressing their softball bats, and there were posters (left below) made of a collage of the various gorgeous guys. All of the models appear to be white. Was race the real issue in the first place?Some interplay of race and gender and sexuality seems to have short-circuited the sanity and principles of the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance. Get a grip, people.