basketball

An Open Letter to Sports Fans About Homophobia

Content warning for those sensitive to homophobia and topics of mental health. There’s nothing wrong with being sensitive about those issues, and if it would be easier for you to skip out on this article, feel free to.

Recently, there have been a few notable sports players who have made homophobic comments. Namely Anthony Edwards of the Minnesota Timberwolves. He made and posted a video to social media of him filming queer men and the fact that they’re appearing queer being the punchline. In the video he says, “Look at these queer ass [n-word]. What has the world come to?”

These comments are homophobic and he rightfully got fined by the NBA for making them on Tuesday. They insinuate that the world being more accepting to the queer community than it used to be a bad thing. He poses the question, what has the world come to? Well, the world has come to be more accepting of queer folks. However, it still has a long way to go.

There has been a lot of silence from NBA players about the video and Ant’s comments in general. Denver Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon did have something to pitch in though, and it wasn’t pretty. He didn’t directly say anything, and he may not have intentionally spread any homophobia. That was the result of his tweet though, and it was probably hurtful to many queer Nuggets fans. I myself am part of the LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex, asexual, plus) community, being both asexual and panromantic. Asexual meaning someone who experiences little to no sexual attraction, and panromantic meaning I have romantic interest in anyone. Doesn’t matter if they’re a man, a woman, someone in between, transgender, etc.

I am not accusing Aaron Gordon of being homophobic, and I hope he’s not. He deleted both of the tweets he made on Tuesday without a clarifying statement though, so the obvious interpretation is that he doesn’t agree with the league’s ruling on Anthony Edwards’ punishment. With that interpretation, many sports fans showed support for both Gordon and Edwards. Saying things like “They did nothing wrong,” or “Yeah, people are too soft nowadays. Queer people need to shut up.”

That wasn’t everyone, but it was an alarming amount of people. Many queer people struggle to find spaces accepting of them, and if they know some of their favorite players feel that they shouldn’t be the way they are — it can cause some mental health issues. Not only because of the players, but because in a lot of spaces jokes can be made at the expense of gay men, lesbians are often the subject of fetishization by straight men, transgender people are often subject to harassment due to wanting to be themselves. There are many, many examples of queer people being harassed or otherwise negatively impacted.

According to a study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law released in 2017, people that are part of the LGBTQIA+ community are four times more likely than straight people to experience some form of violent victimization. I can personally attest to these results too. I myself have been bullied growing up for being queer. I first tried coming out as bisexual when I was 12, but was dismissed by people saying it was just a phase I was going through and that I’d “turn out right” in the end. I was cast out by some social circles I had been a part of. I was told on multiple occasions to kill myself. I’ve been harassed in public for wearing nail polish. I’ve been called gay slurs.

These things are incredibly hurtful. I struggle with my mental health, and a large part of my depression and anxiety is the trauma that I was put through as an adolescent just trying to be myself. I have other queer friends who have experienced worse than that — some of my friends have been hardgender for identifying as transender or as gay. It’s an unfortunate reality that I don’t think many realize the full scope of.

I’m not looking to shame people who weren’t given the right information growing up — I want to help educate whoever is willing to hear me out. I want to turn these recent events into the chance to have an open dialogue. It’s true that no one will come to understand one another without having discussions, so I want to have discussions with people who are queer, or want to learn more about the queer community. Right now, the sports community is at a place that is disappointing, but if people start talking about it and advocate for equal treatment — then there is hope at the end of the tunnel.

So many people are raised being taught that being gay is against a set of their religious beliefs, or that being gay is something to be ashamed of. In reality though, they’re just people like you. They just want to experience love how they experience it without being judged and ridiculed for it. I hope they get to experience that someday, and that the NBA community can work towards being an environment where queer people are accepted.

I want to have conversations with you guys about these topics, so on my Twitter I will have open DMs. I will respond to anyone who wants to talk about these topics for any reason. I will do my best to respond to comments under this article as well — and if you’re queer I encourage you to do the same. I want to teach and educate about our community — show that we’re just people looking for acceptance at the end of the day. I do truly hope that Aaron Gordon and Anthony Edwards try to educate themselves about these communities and that this is the start to a meaningful shift in the social paradigm.

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