Share Your Story: Ballerina Boy
My experience of homophobia started just like most gay male athletes. I went out for the macho sports: football, basketball, baseball, and track. Growing up in a small community, and growing up in a class of 60-some students, I was a target not because I was out, but because I was into something, not to mention good at it: I was a male dancer.
My athletic abilities reached out into the artistic world, and required a competitive nature, to the point were I was competing among some of the best dancers in the mid-west, and even as far east as the state of Ohio, and as far west as the state of Colorado. I shared these talents, and abilities with my fellow classmate at talent shows, and it was because of my personal display of affection for something as beautiful as the art of dance that the harassment and bullying started.
In high school, one of my dance partners had a brother who was on the basketball team with me. I was a sophomore when he was a senior and for this story I will call him “Noah.” He was one of the stars on the varsity basketball team, not to mention a friend of my sister’s. He was definitely the type of guy that fit the label “jock.” He had a rockin’ body, and was very “easy on the eyes.” His personality, however, was not as pretty as his looks. One night after basketball practice concluded, we headed off to locker rooms to clean up. And just as the conclusion of every other practice, the fear of being caught looking at one of the guys in the locker room came over me. I’m sure we have all experienced that moment, the one when the sight and smell of the locker room stops your heart for a few moments, before you heart rate increases just a slight bit.
As I finished showering and changing into my clothes from the school day, I saw someone approaching me out of the corner of my eye. It was “Noah.” As he got closer and closer, my heart began to race faster and faster. Before I knew it, “Noah” was standing right in front of me, with only his gym towel around him. I started to pack my bags even faster than I had before. (I had always bee-lined it to the showers from practice to get out of the locker room as quickly as possible.) This night, however, I would be caught in my tracks. After “Noah” approached me, he took his towel off, and said, in a mockingly feminine voice, “Hey there big boy! How do I look?” He had made a spectacle for the entire rest of the sophomore locker room to see, and even a few freshman that were trying to befriend “Noah” had peeked in to see what was going on. I raced home, thankfully only living a block from my high school, and immediately tried to put that events out of my mind.
That next day at practice, the junior varsity team (which I was on) was working on some offensive drills. I had forgotten to do something in the drill, and therefore it got messed up because of me, and we had to start over. As we started the drill over one of the freshmen asked, in what I remember as the loudest shout I had ever heard, “McCubbin, how was that big donkey dick last night?” I was not going to put up with the harassment, or in more modern terms, homophobic punch lines, any longer.
I confronted my coaches about the two instances, and the individuals guilty of saying such things. I was not going to be a part of a team if that was how I was going to be treated. After my coaches spoke with the individuals, and pulled me into a meeting with them, I “accepted” their “apologies,” but didn’t necessarily believe that they were 100 percent sorry. After the incident, I also told “Noah’s” mother about what he did and said, and she was even more appalled then I was. It would be fair to go as far as to say that she was disgusted with him. I could never look at those two individuals in the same way again.
The homophobia that existed in my high school’s locker room is just one example of how gay male athletes are afraid to be honest with their teammates. The biggest cliché in sports today is that sports teams are all families. As a cross country/track and field athlete at Luther College, a small private liberal arts college in Decorah, IA, I had an opportunity to experience what it means to be a “family” of athletes. If there are any words that I can share with gay male and female athletes regarding being out in your sport, it is this:
Do what you do best, which is just to be yourself. Defy the odds with your teammates, or your “family.” Stand up for what you know is right, and for the rights of every single individual in the locker room, regardless of his or her sexual orientation. Let your teammates, your school, community, family, and friends know what you stand up for, which are the rights and liberties of every single human being on this earth. As pop artist Cheryl Cole once said, “We’ve gotta fight for this love,” and stand up to the hate and hostility that exist in high school and college locker rooms all across the nation. Let’s go!