Monday, November 30, 2009

Sorry, it's totally still a big deal

by Anne

I haven't said anything to this point about Brendan Burke. Well, not in this forum anyway. I'm sure all of you are DYING for my input. Well, regardless, here it is.

I've heard many people try to downplay the issue and say that it "isn't a big deal" or that it's "sad" that it is such a big deal to so many people. However, the fact remains that it still is a big deal, a very big deal.

Normally I hate to be the person to play this card, but perhaps this offering will give my statements some credibility: I have LOTS of gay friends. I majored in theatre in college. The stereotypes are true. If I were to scroll through my phone, probably half the men and 1/4 of the women in my phone are gay.

I've seen the agonizing pain and fear of rejection that gay men and women go through in the process of coming out. Those who are heterosexual cannot imagine the constant fear that gay youth go through in their every day lives. The dominant discourse of our culture says that homosexuality is an aberration and should be studied and explored for it's impact on the world, rather than accepted as an occurrence of everyday life. Imagine waking up everyday and knowing that people all over the country and the world want to have an input on whom you can and cannot love or marry. That's not a burden most people want to even think about, let alone live with.

When I was in high school, there was this kid in my grade whom I never spoke to. This wasn't too shocking, there were almost 400 people in my graduating class. He was a jock, I was a choir girl, orchestra violist and theatre chick. We didn't mix much. I remember always feeling weird about him because he never talked. Ever. I think his name was Andy. He ran track, played baseball and, I think, soccer. I'm not sure. All I know is that he never spoke. Ever. We never had any of the same classes and I only saw him as a kid I could identify as a fellow member of the class of 2003.

It wasn't until a couple of years ago when I was out with some friends that I ran into Andy. We didn't speak (of course, why change things now?) but I heard him talking to some people and it hit me: Andy is gay.

That's why he didn't talk. That's why he was so silent all those years. That's why I had no idea who he was. He didn't want anyone to know who he really was. The thought was so deeply sad to me that I almost cried right there in that bar. I wanted to go up to him and tell him that he didn't have to be silent in high school. There were people that would've understood. Even if they weren't athletes themselves, there were people who would've cared enough to keep his secret for him and allow him to tell someone, anyone. Sometimes that's all someone needs to start things off. Just tell someone.

My best friend is a gay man. He's been one of my closest friends for almost twelve years. I've known he was gay since he was in middle school. He didn't come out until he was a freshman in college. That always lead to some awkward "but I'm not gay" moments in high school. He's not a jock, he's a theatre and singing fool like me, but the other men in his family are jocks. His dad is 6'4" 250lbs and his younger brother isn't far behind in the athletic department. The day he came out, his mother threw him out of the house and he slept in the extra bedroom at my house; he had nowhere else to go. It was awful. He was depressed and exhausted and miserable. Fortunately, his parents came around and  accepted him fully back into their lives almost immediately after he left, but not all gay teens are as lucky. His mother still picks on him about his clothes, but now that he's 23 and teaches in NYC, it bothers him less.

That's why Brendan Burke's story is important.  That's why it's a big deal. I still think Brian Burke is an irritating oaf of a hockey personality, don't misunderstand me. He's an overbearing blowhard who uses his truculent (I am so SICK of that word) personality to get his point across in all things. However, in this matter, he has refrained from doing so. He stands patiently by his courageous son's side and doesn't strong-arm anyone into agreeing with him, thankfully.

It's a big deal, and I hope it doesn't go away anytime soon. I hope someday there might be a player who will feel comfortable coming out. That might never happen, but we all can dream.


  1. Good post. I usually want to say "oh, everyone just get over it already and everything will be fine," but when I think about it, I know it isn't that simple.

    I like how Brian Burke is handling the situation, but something about the Bucci column struck me as off in a way I can't quite put my finger on. It was this mix of condescension and... I don't know, apology (?) - like, "Burke Sr. is such a tough guy, rah rah testosteronecakes and that's why it was SO BRAVE of Brendan to come out to his dad. Ps, did you know guy dudes aren't all pansies? I, Bucci, am so enlightened for acknowledging this." (Um, I told you I couldn't put my finger on it.) It was just glib and insincerely PC.

    On the other hand, I really liked Justin Bourne's take on homophobia & gay players in hockey - very thoughtful & honest. That guy is becoming a must-read for me.

  2. Brian Burke is handling this as best as he can. I'm very happy to hear that he didn't push is son away after he came out, because I can't imagine how hard that is. Then again, I came out to my mother and she doesn't respect my decision but that's a whole 'nother story.

    I hope that other homosexuals in sports will begin to come out more and more as they gain their rights. It isn't right for them to keep their true selves hidden because they're afraid of what might happen to them.

  3. I've been a reader of Sabertooth's House and now of this blog (is that the equivalent of long time listener, first time caller?) and thought I needed to finally speak up and comment.

    Thank you for this entry. It was perfect and yes, it's still a big deal. Keep up the great work.



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