I’m not going to lie. I grew up with a backwards attitude. Yeah, Athens is a college town, but it’s still in Georgia. At both my rough-and-tumble public school and my vaguely Christian-ish (and generally wonderful) private school, homophobia reigned. “Gay” meant “weak.”
It took me a few years to realize that I knew gay people. Those guys we knew in Savannah who lived together with their bulldogs? Yeah. My relative who only married a woman as a business deal of sorts? Yeah.
In college, I met plenty of people who were out. And my attitude changed.
College will do that to you if you go to the right place. My perceptions on Muslims changed. I had known a couple of Jewish neighbors at home, but now I was seeing observances of all the holidays and learning much more about the religion and the culture. And I met gay people, some of whom didn’t conform to any stereotype that had been instilled in me in Athens.
I don’t think I actively hated anyone growing up. But I was ignorant. Surely insensitive at times.
And my attitude on sexual identity was still framed by my church and the “muscular Christianity” youth groups that had taught me to play football very well and soccer very badly. I needed a few years out in the real world to see that things weren’t always what a hyper-literal and biased interpretation of the Bible could make them seem.
At the same time, I’d always been open to women’s sports. I went to women’s basketball games at Duke when maybe 200 people would show up. I had friends on the volleyball team and soccer team. I nearly got in a fight at N.C. State during a volleyball match. (Those guys were jerks.)
So whenever I’ve been in sports journalism, in and out over the last 25 years, I’ve covered women’s sports, ranging from UNC Wilmington basketball games that no one saw and Women’s World Cup games that packed stadiums in Germany.
And through the years, acceptance of gay players and fans has grown. At UNC Wilmington, there were occasional whispers. Now I cover soccer teams with multiple lesbian players and a large LGBTQ fan base.
Why am I talking about this now?
Because we just had an election, and I see a lot of people who are scared. I think the gay-bashing rhetoric we saw in the election has little change of becoming law, but a lot of hateful people now feel empowered, and that’s legitimately frightening.
So I’m writing now to say this …
I’ve got your back.
Maybe 30 years ago, when I was a naive high school kid in Georgia, I wouldn’t have said that. I wouldn’t have understood why it was important to say it.
And even today, I have to limit my political statements for a variety of reasons. I’m not going to argue federal income tax with anyone.
But today I understand that basic human decency means treating people with dignity. So if anyone tries to invalidate the lives and loves of their fellow human beings, I will speak up.
Yell at me about my women’s soccer coverage. That’s fine. We have controversies. But just know that when it comes to what’s really important, I’m on your side.
My favorite tweet of the past two days:
Joanna Lohman is a lot stronger than most of us. She’s certainly stronger than I am, so I doubt she really needs my help.
But I’ve got her back. And yours. And yours.