Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
August 18, 1998

A league of our own.
Author/s: Bruce Vilanch

The earliest form of gaydar--that sissy sixth sense that tells you another of your breed is somewhere in the vicinity--was discovered by me, I am proud to say, in gym class in the late '50s. The last kid chosen for volleyball, or any other kind of ball except the one I wanted to be chosen for, was invariably me. The next-to-last kid, the one the other team got, was invariably the other gay kid in the class.

We were the two who ducked when the ball came (you might get hurt!) or took 72 tries before making a simple layup. We were put in right field so often, we could have built condos out there. Coaches didn't know whether to put in a pinch hitter or a pinch runner for us and often tried to do both.

Football was absolutely out of the question. Swimming was all right, but it involved diving, and that was an ancillary skill that refused to come out of hiding, like a misplaced testicle that never dropped. Badminton was close to acceptable because it made everybody look fairly fruity. But what was more pathetic than making a gigantic swish and missing something actually called a shuttlecock?

The other guy who never got picked in gym class could actually be singled out even before teams were chosen. He always had the freshly laundered and pressed gym shirt and shorts because his mother, well, was like your mother. She knew her kid would never win a medal, but she wanted him to look spiffy in case there was an opening ceremony or some other photo op.

My mother confided that she feared a gay son would wind up lonely, even though the only gay people she actually had consistent truck with were a pair of screechy dressmakers so absorbed with each other that they could have been mistaken for Violet and Daisy Hilton.

Of course, I knew that as long as there was one other guy who was picked last in any sport, I would never be alone. It was one of the comforting things about being gay. Shameful as it is to admit now, some of the old ways of the secret society bordered on fun. Well, there's my old internalized homophobia running rampant again. Must adjust the medication to get rid of that.

The world has changed, little gay person. Now we don't just fantasize over pictures of Greek gods, we get to be them. To be gay and out of shape is almost as much of a stigma as just being gay used to be. The shoulders stoop with the burden. But wait, there's more: You don't just have to look gorgeous, you actually have to be smiled in a sport. Yikes.

All that pumping and buffing and bench-pressing is not just so you can strut around the darkness of a disco bumping into other pillars that turn out to be people. You have to be the world's first openly gay shot-putter.

You get to go to Amsterdam, where other openly gay shot-putters strut around dark discos waiting for their event to be called at the international convocation of people who used to be chosen last for volleyball. Then you all get to compete and win gold lame medals, and are the best openly gay shot-putter in the world.

On the scale of things, this probably puts you at the level of Miss Wyoming--the prettiest girl in an underpopulated state. But it's about pride, and who can argue with that? If enough Gay Games produce enough gay athletes who can step up to the mixed Olympics and take a few trophies, it will have been worth it. If the presence of so many stellar gay athletes can convince some closeted Olympians to come out, it will be even better.

And if a kid who is sitting in school, aware of his sexuality, and also aware that he could deck several large Romanians in the boxing ring, is tempted to come out because of our newfound athletic support, then that would be the best of all. Meanwhile, I have a big blank page here in the Rolodex under "Shot-putters, Fabulous" and am open to any numbers you might want to pass along.