Friday, February 19, 2010

Sexuality confuses me

Not my own--most of the time anyway.
But all this neoliberal, neo-queer stuff is really confusing. Especially in the context of the Olympics.
So according to Pat Griffin, the person I go to for such information, there are only 4 out athletes at these Winter Olympics (all women), plus Johnny Weir who sometimes epitomizes these neoliberal, neo-queer discussions for me.
But four! That number is quite low. So we enter the "it's the 21st century and I don't need to be out; I am who I am" kind of discussion countered by the idea that that's just baloney (articulate, eh?) and queer people are making themselves more invisible in this age of increasing visibility and controversy over issues of sexuality. But this latter argument is hard to put on someone like Weir, who will not discuss his sexuality because it's "private" (though he has no problems with privacy when showing his ass on his Sundance Channel show) but is not at all subtle in his behaviors and comments that can be read as stereotypically gay male behavior--see aforementioned showing of his ass.
But let's move beyond Johnny Weir. Sarah Vaillancourt, a hockey player for Canada is the only out athlete on that team. I found this surprising when I found out more about her coach, Melody Davis. (I have a theory about the connection between the identity markers of coaches and their athletes in women's sports.) I headed to Hockey Canada's website to look up Melody Davis and found her coaching history (impressive; she appears to be one of very few women to coach elite level boys) and her picture. I was startled when I saw her picture. Davis is unapologetically butch. (Note that I am not saying her butchness means she is gay or identifies as gay.) She may be gay. She may be out. I have no idea. But she is not engaging in any kind of apologetic behavior for her non-conforming appearance. And this is surprising to me because she's a female coach of Canada's national pastime. (She also coached intercollegiate hockey at Cornell.) She's also been quite outspoken in her belief that good teams (i.e. Canada and the US) should not be backing off in lopsided games (of which there have been many). This debate clearly has a gendered component and she has taken the side that is marked as masculine (note that I find such marking problematic).
But it's also curious that a team with a visibly non-conforming coach does not have more non-conforming players. Maybe they do. Maybe they are just not out because of the aforementioned neo-queer I don't have to be out thing. But then why is one person out? Again, confusing.

So then I saw that US women's hockey team is all about Ellen Degeneres. They have an Ellen conquers the world flag that they are carrying around and the other day they appeared on on Ellen's show. None of these women are out. Maybe none of them are gay (but I doubt it) and just really really like Ellen. Erica Lawler called Ellen a babe during the segment. And indeed Ellen is a babe. So these women--who are not marking themselves as gay--are admiring in a somewhat sexualized way, an out lesbian. We could say this is progress in that women, straight and gay, feel comfortable expressing admiration for Ellen. But Ellen herself can be read as a neo-liberal gay.

And then I was watching the men's figure skating final (well what I could stay awake for--what is up with all this super late coverage???) and saw that the owner of the Cowboys was there along with Tony Dungy. Tony Dungy is the retired coach of the Colts and one of the few black coaches to break through into the upper echelons of the sport. He is very devoted to charitable work. And he is also known for his anti-gay stances based in his devotion to a version of christianity. I mean two football dudes watching men's figure skating. Even though there are no out gay male figure skaters 1) there is Johnny Weir (who actually seems quite devoted to a judeo-christian god if you read his tweets) and 2) everyone knows men's ice skating is a big gay closet which is why people like Evan Lysacek is so out as a hetero. Again, it seems too easy to call this progress, but my head is starting hurt with all the cognitive dissonance.
And by the way, there is a PRIDE house at the Olympics. It's a welcoming place for LGBT athletes, coaches, and families. So those four out athletes and their friends and families must be psyched to have the place to themselves, eh?

As you can see, my thoughts on these issues are kind of scattered--as evidenced by all the parentheses. Mostly this post was just an attempt to work through some of my confusion. I don't know if it helped!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

how do you know that none of the women are out? i happen to know a few of the girls on team and they are "out" and comfortable with their sexuality. Just because Ellen is gay and the women's team wanted to be on her show doesnt mean that the team is gay but rather they look up to Ellen as a woman.