Monday, February 25, 2008

Anti-Gay Name-Calling is “Just A Good Laugh”?

Whenever I work with student-athletes on LGBT issues in sport, I do a short “stand up poll” at the beginning of the session where I ask several questions about their experiences with LGBT teammates, coaches and other LGBT-related topics. Typically, when I ask if anyone has heard anti-gay slurs or comments in the locker room, on the playing field or elsewhere in the athletic environment this school year, most of the room is standing. Next, I ask if anyone has heard coaches or teammates speak up to object to these anti-gay slurs. Typically, everyone sits down to indicate that they have not. Anti-gay slurs are an established, if not accepted, part of school athletic experience. Everyone hears them, but no one stops them.

That might change at Wartburg College in Waverly Iowa. Nicholas Yordi, the quarterback on the football team at Wartburg, was accused of shouting anti-gay slurs out the window of his residence hall room at a gay student passing by. The student contacted campus security and the Wartburg police were called in. Yordi was charged with disorderly conduct for shouting “abusive epithets likely to provoke a violent reaction from the victim.”

In court Yordi called himself “a dumb college kid” and testified that he yells at pedestrians for amusement, “Didn’t mean anything by it. Never have. Just getting a good laugh out of it.” Yordi’s attorney defended his client as “stupid,” “inappropriate” and “insensitive,” but not criminal. His motion to dismiss the charges was denied by the magistrate. The ruling will be made within 30 days and the penalty for a guilty verdict is up to 30 days in jail and a $625 fine.

We can argue about whether or not this case should be heard in a criminal court, but it seems clear that Yordi has not been served well by an athletic culture that accepts anti-gay slurs as just part of day to day interactions. When fans are allowed to target and taunt opposing players, like the University Of Oregon basketball fans taunted Kevin Love and when coaches and teammates use anti-gay slurs or are silent in response to them, young athletes like Nicholas Yordi learn that this is “just a good laugh.”

Whether defended as banter, teasing or taunting, the pervasiveness of anti-gay name-calling in athletics and the silence from school administrators and athletic leaders in response sends a powerful message of acceptance: It’s OK to call someone a “homo” or a “dyke.”

Many LGBT youth develop thick skin in response to the silence from coaches and teachers. I worry about the young people who cannot ignore these epithets so carelessly tossed about the locker room, screamed at opposing players in a game or shouted out dorm windows. Struggling in silence for their own sense of worth, these words don’t bounce off so easily. Do we care that they quit teams rather than endure the daily barrage of “anti-gay banter?” Do we care that they drop out of school or take their own lives? Equally important, do we take any responsibility for the festering homophobia among their straight teammates who think shouting “faggot” at passers-by is a good laugh?

Where did Nicholas Yordi get his “education” about the fun of anti-gay name-calling? If you are a coach, what are your athletes learning? If you are a parent, what are your children learning?

11 comments:

calugg said...

Here's a fast observation.

Wartburg is an ELCA school. So, what is the good Lutheran Church doing about homophobia in it's educational institutions? As former professor at Grand View College (in Des Moines), I would surely like to know how yelling homophobic slurs is consistent with the Church's ethic of social justice.

Just asking....

Anonymous said...

The fact that the quarterback was fined and jailed for something he said is a joke. Freedom of speech, he can say what he wants and it falls on the 'victim' in this case to shrug it off. There is no way that Nick Yordi should've even been in court. And secondly in the sport I play in, rugby, I don't want any homosexuals on the team. If we're in a team shower I don't want someone in there who will take enjoyment out of seeing me naked and I certainly don't want someone to 'pop a bone' in a shower full of naked guys. Same goes for football and any other sport I've played. And that's not the only problem I can think of, just the first one off the top of my head.

Pat Griffin said...

Anonymous, thank you for reading and responding to my blog post. I agree with you that I am not sure this was a case for the criminal courts, however I do believe that this kind of name-calling among athletes needs to stop. I also encourage you to think more about the stereotypes you have about gay athletes in the locker room and your assumption that they would have an uncontrollable sexual interest in teammates.

Certainly I agree that no one (male or female, straight or gay) should endure unwanted sexual attention, but assuming that gay athletes are automatically turned on by teammates in the shower is prejudiced thinking. Gay athletes are thinking about the same things you are in the locker room - how they played, the next game, what's for dinner, a big test the next day, a nagging injury. You need to get over yourself.

Anonymous said...

and the difference between gay athletes in a shower and straight ones is that the straight ones aren't turned on by naked men, for instance. it's the same concept as putting a guy on a women's team. If you claim it to be any different you're just lying to yourself and lying to me. Now I'm one of the calmer and more picky guys, when it comes to women, but if I were to start playing women's field hockey(or any other women's sport)team there'd be no way I could resist certain thoughts in a shower full of naked women. I see this as the same concept.

Todd23 said...

Dear Anonymous:
I have read your comments on this blog with sadness and mild disgust. While I am all for freedom of speech and thought, I wonder why you feel the need to come to a blog like this and attack the views of its author. Do you feel strongly that GLBT athletes are ruining your freedom?
If you were in a room with my fantastically nice and kind 13 year daughter, who identifies herself as a lesbian and is also an athlete, would you sit her down and tell her how she does not deserve to participate in sports? Would you explain why she should endure painful slurs against her as good fun? Would you deride her sexual orientation with slurs to her face to try and make her drop out so straight girls would not have to endure the horror of being her teammate.

If you have any brothers or sisters would it make you mad if someone did those things to them?

If someone started a rumor that you were gay, would those things being done to you make you angry?

I am a straight man who played sports in high school and college, and I ignorantly said things that I really regret as an adult, I occasionally still say things on accident like "that is so gay" ...but I immediately turn to my daughter and say "dang it i'm sorry I meant, that is dumb or that is bad" and I look her in the eye and promise to try harder to stop.
Please think about the people you hurt with these words and try to stop hurting people just like you and my daughter.

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness the 'gay gene' doesn't run in my family. And no if I had a sister or brother who was gay, I wouldn't be concerned about what they were being called at school. It's their choice to be in that situation and it's their choice to come out of it. Your daughter probably enjoys the name calling and the attention it brings. And yeah it would make me angry if people called me gay, because i'm not and it would be considered a lie. Do you realize you're daughter is 13 years old? and she already calls herself gay? That's just aweful most 13 year old girls still don't like boys yet, it's called being a kid. I know I didn't start to get into girls until high school. I'd say your case is just another of society and lack of attention pushing your daughter one way.

Todd23 said...

Dear Anonymous:
I am sorry that you feel the need to villify and degrade a 13 yr old girl to make your self feel more masculine. I hope you and your buddys in your scrum are all srtictly heterosexual, for your sake.

Anonymous said...

It is probably scarier for a gay man to be in a shower room full of heterosexual men than the opposite. I doubt in a shower full of men he probably isnt attracted to to begin with, he would dare hit on or become aroused by anyone, because of the possible violent and negative response he may recieve, not to mention his sexuality making him viewed as a sex object by many of the men in the room (gay or straight). For an out gay man to be naked in front of everyone else its much more likely for him to be looked at, taunted, have his ass slapped, or even be molested/groped than the opposite. 90% + of the population is straight, and in sports, i reckon it is higher. So until gays take over the world, anonymous, i dont see why you feel so threatened by a gay guy. If you do, you have the option to take a shower BY YOURSELF later, as does everyone else. Get over yourself. Are you attracted to every woman you meet because you are straight? no. Same goes for gay men. If anything they probably find you repulsive to begin with. And I hope the closeted gay men DO stare at your soapy naked body in the locker room when you aren't aware. Just to make you uncomfortable.

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