Gay Rights, Ice Hockey, and Writing

by K. Trian
 If there are any sports fans out there, you’ve probably heard and read of the hubbub concerning the Moscow track-and-field World Championships and the criticism Russia has received concerning their human right trampling laws against homosexuals. This has prompted articles and opinion pieces to pop up all around media, and one of the most interesting ones that I read today was on gay rights, sports and NHL by Jouni Nieminen, a sports reporter. Unfortunately the article is in Finnish, but it made me think of a few things in relation to writing, gay rights and ice hockey.
Gay Rights and Ice Hockey
1) A male ice hockey player is expected to be heterosexual vs. A female ice hockey player can freely be both, gay or straight.
No, it’s not that black-and-white in real life, but you get the picture. This seems hardly fair, and makes me wonder if there really are people out there who honestly believe a gay man can’t be as “masculine” as a straight man, can’t play hockey as well, can’t build big, burly muscles, can’t lose his teeth in a scuffle, can’t drink his mates under the table, etc. How does the sexual orientation in any way affect any of that, the trademark behavior of “a real man”? And what are you afraid of in the locker room? Surprise butt-sex? You, big burly hockey players? That someone checks out your junk? Does that bother you and why? I just can’t wrap my mind around this mindset that a player’s worth is not solely weighed by their skill. Or around the ridiculous homophobia that keeps one from showering at the same time with a gay person.
2) As a kid, I thought Russia was cool with gays because of t.A.T.u
Do lesbians pull the longer straw once again, or why does it seem that in sports, gay women have it easier than gay men? Let’s face it, sports, especially those that make you sweat, were considered a man’s business for a long time, so perhaps it is still a manly world. Now, the lesbian stereotype seems to be a manly, cross-dressing butch, so perhaps, indeed, being a gay woman doesn’t infringe on or besmirch some holy ground of athletics.
As for the t.A.T.u –reference. These girls, while apparently not gay in real life, were huge in the early ‘00s. While many of their gimmicks seemed to be mere eye candy for the male audience, the girls also had real talent and some really good pop songs (and actually, I’m glad I stood my ground and listened to them even though my big brother asked in all seriousness whether I was a lesbian too). So it’s rather surprising they came from Russia who’s received a lot of shit for their nonsensical human right violations.

You know, ’cause in reality a bunch of guys can go and beat up a lesbian, but if the same guys beat up a straight woman, they’ll get their balls sawed off and fed to them.
3) Traits irrelevant to skill kill your career – or save it?
Jason Collins and Glenn Burke were unfamiliar names to me up until now, but apparently in both cases being openly homosexual can and/or has affected their careers. Jason Collins came out this year. He plays basketball in NBA, but his career is at its dusk, he’s 34. If he gets to renew his contract, will it be renewed so as to shut up gay activists, or because he’s still got something to give to his team? If it’s not renewed, will there be accusations of homophobia? Either way, what saddens me is that there’s potential for dragging his sexual orientation where only his skill should be relevant.
Major League Baseball player and possible high-five inventor Glen Burke’s story is sad. He was openly gay through his career in the ‘70s, but his reputation was eventually besmirched, and he was smoked out of the sport he loved.
I can understand why people would choose not to be open about their sexual orientation or love life when there’s the danger of jeopardizing their career, and it saddens me that the world has to be this way. I mean, is The Summer Hit 2013 maker, Robin Thicke getting his career shot down for the lyrical atrocity that is Blurred Lines? Yup, advocating non-consensual sex is ok. Sleeping with the same sex is not.
The message
How is this relevant to a writer, then? I know many writers tend to get a little wary whenever they’re asked if there’s a message in their story for fear of appearing preachy because that’s just not cool if you want to live in the same box with other libertarians. But I think we shouldn’t be afraid of sprinkling messages in our stories. In Solus, the main male hero is gay – and a warrior, serving an organization that doesn’t welcome openly gay men or women. But since that’s what he loves, what fills his life, he does it anyway, and this situation opens several interesting avenues for discussion to us, the writers. The story is not about his struggle as a gay man in a homophobic environment, but it is part of the character, and we can’t dismiss that part. We have also created a multinational society where Western liberalism clashes with non-liberal values, and that also provides us plenty of interesting viewpoints. Yes, our attitudes bleed in, that’s unavoidable, but I’m still excited to have such a story to work with that allows me to discuss matters that are important to me – like the right to love and live. Whether our execution will ultimately work, well, I guess if anyone ever ends up reading the novel, they’ll be the judge of that. 

Breaking Stereotypes
But another reason why I think this is relevant when it comes to writing is that whatever characters a writer creates; gay, straight, black, white, men, women, young, old; there can be so much more to that character than the gender/color/orientation/age-tag we glue on them, and I find it important to respect the many layers the creation can and should have. Even if it’s just the tip of the iceberg that makes it to the final manuscript. I also think that, to a degree, a writer who’s serious about their work, should take responsibility and portray the many walks of life with respect – even if they seemed to be the villains. Even though it’s 2013, a gay male hockey player has a different story to tell than a gay interior designer – and note, it might not necessarily mean the former struggles with his sexuality vs. his surroundings more than the latter.


4 thoughts on “Gay Rights, Ice Hockey, and Writing

  1. Personally I believe that (to your average burly masculine male) lesbians are fine because they get all hot and bothered about two women kissing and secretly imagine themselves in the middle. Whereas if they imagine that with men it’s all ‘eww, buttsex!’.
    Good overall point though. I went to watch City of Bones yesterday, and it’s pretty cool to see that one of the side characters is gay. Forgot about that when I read the book, but then it makes no difference to me really.

    • Thanks for the comment! Yeah, straight men can take it that way or they can become angry because the lesbians are stealing all their women :p
      One observation we did was when watching mil sci-fi / military tv shows. Lesbian characters are common, but gay soldiers/warriors seem to be an impossibility, which is strange, considering the number of gay men in the military (examples: Battlestar Galactica, Stargate Universe).

      • Yeah, lesbians in general seem to be more accepted/less ‘threatening’ in positions of violence. There has been a trope for a while of the flamboyant gay male villain, which tends to be used to creep out the assumed heterosexual-teen-male audience, so it may be difficult for certain writers to get past that stereotype (flamboyant and/or creepy) when inserting a gay character.

        I personally have a couple gay soldiers of various personality types, dealing with various issues. But their existence and personalities don’t boil down to those issues — the issues are an outgrowth of their surroundings, companions, society, et cetera. And I think that’s the point: to not make the character a Single-Issue Character but a person, who deals with the variety of troubles and triumphs that comes with being a person.

      • You make a good point about the single-issue characters, and one problem can’t define that character either (let’s say, writing a gay ice hockey player and he’s defined by his struggle with being himself and getting to play the sport he loves).

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