No doubt you’ve heard the news by now. Probably, you have. Missouri All-
American defensive lineman Michael Sam declared he was gay, on Sunday, February 9, 2014. He’s black, and he’s gay, and he’s proud of it.
Michael’s father’s birthday was last Tuesday, which is when his son, Michael, Jr., gave him the surprise of his life. Michael, Jr. told his father he was gay.
”I was shocked,” Michael, Sr., said. “I’m proud of him. He’s my son.”
First Lady Michelle Obama gushed at how proud she was of Michael coming out like he did before the NFL draft. He will be the first openly homosexual player to enter the draft. A former pro quarterback opined that whoever signed Sam might need sensitivity training in the locker room. The President followed with his public approval several days later.
Then Sam’s father backtracked a bit by saying he had been misquoted and that he was more of a traditional man when it came to sexuality.
One would have thought that the young man had done something special, like discover a cure for pancreatic cancer or a new species of humming bird in the Central American jungle, or come up with a safer football helmet. But no.
Sam’s sexual identity was an open secret in the Mizzou locker room. He knew the liberal media, in particular, would greet his brazen announcement with roaring approval. What choice did they have, really? Fortune favors the bold, as they say, and Mr. Sam is nothing if not bold.
Other gay athletes have come out of the closet. Most say they are glad they did, and it turns out that society and their teammates tolerated the news fairly well. Coming out is not quite the traumatic event it was a decade or so ago.
Actress Ellen Page decided to come out, as well, complaining about the entertainment industry’s “crushing standards” of beauty and success. Ah, yes, that’s Hollywood.
And here we might notice a core truth about society and entertainment. It’s one thing for a gay scene to develop in a comedy like Two and A Half Men, for instance, where Charlie and Alan Harper attend a gay party in Charlie’s business interests, and one of the gay characters praises Alan’s “breadbasket;” it would be something else to see two gay characters going at it in bed the way we see straight couples, or threesomes, or foursomes, deep-tonguing and thrashing around, showing serious skin. Although straight men might well be turned on by lesbian scenes. Ms. Page could thank her lucky stars that she has such a good job, in the first place.
What if Rock Hudson had come out at the beginning of his career? Would American filmography have been the better for it? Don’t we cherish certain illusions?
The truth is, straight America really doesn’t want to know much about Mr. Sam in the bedroom. Is he the male or the female, or something else? Does he engage in mutual masturbation, or something else? It’s really none of our business.
It turns out that transparency has it limits. It may be all right to come out of the closet, but drawing back the bedroom curtain, for those who do not watch gay porn, is a different matter.
Back in the swinging Seventies, in the era of Oh! Calcutta! and Studio 54, pundits discussed the notion that sex might be public, after all. Well, as it turned out, by and large, not. When AIDS and HIV swept through town, in the Eighties, and the gay bath houses were closed in the interests of public safety, the you-watch-me, I-watch-you crowd surrendered center stage without much of a fight. Swinging went underground, powered by the Internet.
In the politically correct world of polarities, you are either a virtuous homophile or a hateful homophobe. There are no shades of gray. In reality, for those of us who work in the arts, especially, our experiences with homosexuals are more nuanced. There are shades of gray. We admire persons for their friendship, generosity, kindness, and professionalism. We realize that sexuality is identity not something as capricious as a lifestyle. Identity is the kind of body you want alongside you in bed.
There is a certain brand or fanny-in-your-face showboating, in gay pride parades, for example, that rubs some of us the wrong way. Certainly not to the extent that we want to see gay exhibitionists beaten and led off to prison. No, not that.
Sometimes, discretion is the better part of valor. Discretion is useful. My private space is valuable to me. I don’t want you to know too much about me, unless I invite you into my private space, my life. If you are older, I don’t want to know whether you wear adult diapers. I give you your space, you give me mine.
Let’s face it, there is only so far that heterosexuals can go in celebrating the Other, whooping it up for gaydom, without betraying, privately at least, their own identity.
But hey, Mr. Sam, you had a helluva coming out party. I think you’ve got something there. So, I’m coming out, too. Are you ready, world? I’m expecting a call from the White House any minute now.
By Hudson Owen. All rights reserved.