Retired NBA basketball player John Amaechi became the first player to publicly acknowledge he is gay in 2007 amidst a media firestorm and subsequent release of his memoir Man In The Middle. Amaechi, who divides his time between his native UK and the U.S. has written a thought provoking op-ed for Pink News surprisingly on the effects of homophobia in straight men.
This piece follows a failed effort to release an anti-homophobia PSA produced by the UK Football Association in attempt to eradicate homophobia in sports and homophobic taunts by fans. Several players refused to participate in the ad for fear of humiliation and retaliation. Watch the PSA here.
An excerpt from Pink News:.
I think homophobia is an important issue because of the effect it has on straight people. Homophobia is literally and figuratively killing our youngsters – especially young, straight boys.
In school, for a boy, being clever and interested in academia is gay, being kind and thoughtful is gay, being respectful to parents, authority figures or women is gay.
For a man, being sexually considerate – that is, not sleeping with everything female that moves – is gay. Having non-sexual friendships with women is gay. Being nurturing and considerate is gay. Having a friend who is gay, is gay. Choosing not to drink until you puke is gay. In football, even reading the Guardian or using words with more than three syllables is gay.
We still socially reinforce industrial revolution-style gender identity on our boys and men so that to be a 'real man' you must be the opposite of anything even remotely considered feminine.
We wonder why violence against women is rising? Why our boys run away from academic pursuits in school? Why they rebel against authority and steel themselves from the true expression of emotion despite the consequences?
In part they do these things because even when it's irresponsible or illegal, such behaviour serves to reinforce that they are a 'real man'.
Very cleverly stated. But will this message by received by it's intended audience? Amaechi's points are clearly illustrated in the black community where we glorify hyper- masculine and thug behavior as examples of true manhood- while a black man who doesn't carry himself like 50 Cent is labeled soft at best and gay at worst. Sadly, whether an individual is gay or just suspected of being gay in many circles is the equivalent of a moral plague.