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How Sports Can Teach A Gay Man (And Everyone Else) About Relationships

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How often do you think about what attracts you to another person? Better yet does what attract you to someone affect how you treat others? What about how you view people that have relationships with different groups? These are questions I ask and write about a lot because I feel that once we truly understand what these questions mean along with all that encompasses them the closer we are to being able to truly have meaningful dialogue in recognizing if there are issues involving a prejudice towards a group of people.

 

It’s a mouthful while also being the opening to a very long-winded rant that involves being gay, being an African American and loving football but they all seem to relate to each other in my rambling thoughts. And I’ll try to show how sports are a lot like life in how we communicate with each other in our relationships.

 

You see the reason I’m on this topic again is because today, while watching the Titans game, I received a message from a so called friend who just casually wanted to chat and catch up (aka gossip). This guy loves to talk about who’s hot and who he’d like to date (and hell I love doing that too) but the Titans are my home team that I root for even when their defensive line is abysmal and offense is all over the place. So I wanted to watch (also scream at my TV when they’re doing great or awful or both) without any distractions.

 

 

But my friend is persistent and somewhat of an inquisitor of the human condition (or maybe I’m a pushover). Anyway, I yield on watching the game to focus on what he’s saying. He then asks why I don’t like black men (…what). Naturally the question both confused and angered me at the same time because for one it was random and came completely out of left field and secondly because I always know how conversations like this go. Someone will say something completely untrue and downright dumb followed by me very bluntly stating that their opinion is not only false but also dated.

 

 

They will then quickly try to recover by providing some “empirical evidence” to support their lofty opinion. But I will then proceed to pass over any reductive laundry list of examples to addressing why the question itself is out of bounds leaving them stumped and angry because they realize that the way they asked the question was insensitive and more than likely prejudiced.

 

 

And wouldn’t you know it the situation went exactly like I predicted it would. He went on saying that it bothers him when people don’t date their own race while I pointed out that sounds like his problem not mine. But I couldn’t leave it there and had to expand on it and figure out what this dated opinion came from so I asked for clarification.

He couldn’t think of a way to explain his point without making it sound worse so he then talked about tastes are innate also leading him to the conclusion that sexuality is concrete with no fluidity meaning he believes there’s no such thing as bisexual men. So he choose to go all in on his ridiculous small minded opinions.

 

 

If you follow football, or rather any sport, this conversation and ones like this are a lot like the game. Two opponents standing their ground making large plays to score points and win. Either opponent can fumble the ball (or the point they were trying to make). Either opponent can intercept the ball (conversation) to score another point (in support of their opinion). The time runs out and the person who’s made enough right points wins the game (argument/debate).

 

 

So at this point of the conversation it should be enough when I say that you know what? Even though the majority of men I’ve dated have been Caucasian that I’ve not only attracted to but have also had romantic relationships with every race and a diverse amount of a different ethnicity. That yes I am aware of race and color and ethnicity and aware of the differences and while I acknowledge those differences it does not inhibit arousal or sexual attraction.

But it doesn’t. Saying that will only add to his warped way of thinking.  My explanations or reasoning would only exacerbate whatever closed minded opinion someone else is voicing while making me doubt how aware I am of these cultural aspects when dating.

 

 

If I had brought up how at one time I was foolish enough to believe that the societal norms, including sticking to your race, did not extend to the gay community when in fact in some settings it is amplified. Maybe that is due to not wanting to stick out more in society by engaging in an interracial relationship on top of a gay relationship. In my experience this is more true here in the south.

And some may say the same can be said about acceptance of the gay community by the African American community but that too is subjective. Fair points but in this setting it would’ve come off as trying to give all the responsibility on society when ultimately that decision will always be mine and mine alone, no matter the lifetime of influences.

 

 

Why do we even care that they have an opinion on who we should do/be/say/date/have sex with/love/marry could’ve been another point to win this argument. I could have expanded on how sexuality is a breathing changing entity of our being and as our tastes change so may how we define our sexual identity. Yet talking about it will always seem like defensive bitterness and frustration. And it is that, but not for the reasons some may think.

 

 

Because it’s not for your pity. Never for that so you can keep it or throw it away or better yet not pity people because its degrading and treats someone like they’re subhuman. But it’s important because we do need to know how and why people are drawn to each other. It helps us in a very delicate, subtle way understand where our negative beliefs began. While we are not initially hate and attraction are innate how we perceive them is learned. But bring that up still would not have proven my point. 

 

 

Do you see now how conversations like this become a game? You on defense trying to make as many points to defend your opinion and your pride before the conversation ends. There’s interruptions (interceptions), Hell sometimes there’s even snarling. The only thing that really sets it apart is that there’s no gentle slap on the ass at the end.

 

 

The only time you should be concerned with who someone dates or what their dating preferences are is when they stereotype or categorize an entire group and completely exclude them from based on that backwards opinion. Like Grindr profiles that have “no chicken (people of African Decent) rice (Asian) but spice (Hispanic nonblack) is alright”. Those are the “it’s just a preference” people you should direct these conversations towards. I am not one of those people. But again that would give a point to him because it would appear that I may subconsciously do the same thing as the inept men that have racist dating profiles.

 

 

The whole conversation made me defensive as it always does because I never want to be made to feel like I have some quota to fill and should have to seek out other gay African American man in order for it to “look right”. And I don’t want anyone questioning the legitimacy of bisexuality. But either consciously or subconsciously that’ll be what runs through people’s mind for a split second when they don’t understand. That logic would mean that I question whether the next time I’m attracted to another African American man is that guilt or actual physical arousal.

 

 

This should be entertaining to the outside observer and the victor afterwards but conversations like this don’t turn out that way. It’s life. Because even though I won the argument I don’t feel like a winner. Especially when this exhausting exercise in logic always leaves you feeling on guard for the decisions you make solely based on your race or sexuality or both. Then you hopefully reach the moment of asking yourself why the opinions of others matter in what a person sees in a race or sexual orientation.

 

 

In the end I didn’t use the points that I knew both from experience and studying human behavior meant that instead of answering a question we have to ask more questions. Ask why it feels right to you when two people of the same race are together and uneasy when it’s two different races together. Ask yourself why you need to define what someone else’s sexuality is for them and why that bothers you when it’s different from your beliefs.

My point is that it’s circular and reductive and repetitive and you will again have to go out on the field and be ready to defend your position every single time you’re challenged if you go into conversations like this with that mindset. And the thought of having to repeat the same plays can at times be daunting leading up to confusion and doubt and uncertainty that anything was accomplished at all.

All puns intended when we take on this dynamic in discussing race or sexuality it sets up an us vs them mentality rather than exploring why some have these inaccurate convoluted beliefs. And even when they are right in questioning a person exhibiting self hating tendencies or homophobia (ie not dating one’s own race or trying to define someone else’s sexuality) we have to ask what lead them to see this and open the dialogue even more.

 

So sports can often reflect the strategies we partake in when we have these types of conversations.  Like how some people need to fight in a relationship to prove they’re right just for the sake of argument because it gives them power rather than actually having a legitimate point. Now while I’m not saying life is a game but the way that we interact and choose to have these conversations do take on these dynamics.

Even though this form of communication is the way we are taught to settle debates it is not the way we should be discussing race or sexuality. We need to examine where these questions come from before answering them because when people have questions like my friend that is where he’ll find the answers.

 

 

And next time, let me enjoy the damn game in peace.

 

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Sly

Sly Merritt has a BA in psychology/sociology. MA in clinical psychology. He's a flip flop wearing hippy with a peaceloving mindset. Even pacifists like him know when it's time to do all we can for LGBTQ equality. Sly's views are all opinions not advice.

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