First of all, the birth of Liv Chu-Ouellette is a beautiful story that should be celebrated.
Little Liv, who arrived on Nov. 5, is healthy and her parents are full of joy. Nothing else should really matter.
Except, in this case, there’s a delightful sidebar. Like, Liv has two moms, and they’re both very good at hockey. One, Caroline Ouellette, captained Canada during its gold-medal crusade at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, and her other mom, Julie Chu, is a former captain of the United States national women’s team who was wearing the Stars ‘n’ Stripes in Russia.
That’s right, little Liv’s moms are Captain Canada and Captain America.
Although they’ve butted heads for many years on the international stage—one getting the upper hand at the Olympics and the other at the world championships—both moms are teammates with Les Canadiennes de Montreal in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (Ouellette was preggers with Liv when they won the Clarkson Cup last spring) and both coach the Stingers at Concordia University.
Let us not, however, think of this strictly as a feel-good sports story. It’s a life story, first and foremost, with a hockey backdrop.
The fact we’re discussing and celebrating the birth of a daughter to a same-sex couple is another noteworthy testament to the progress the LGBT collective has made and, even though many people (mainly gospel sharks) pooh-pooh the notion that same-sex parents can raise children properly, evidence from numerous studies endorsed by the American Psychological Association suggest that kids of lesbian couples are as well-adjusted in most critical social areas as their heterosexual peers. Eve and Eve works just as well as Adam and Eve.
Among other things, here’s what the APA has stated:
There is no scientific basis for concluding that lesbian mothers or gay fathers are unfit parents on the basis of their sexual orientation (Armest, 2002; Patterson, 2000; Tasker & Golombok, 1997); On the contrary, results of research suggest that lesbian and gay parents are as likely as heterosexual parents to provide supportive and healthy environments for their children.
Overall, results of research suggest that the development, adjustment, and well-being of children with lesbian and gay parents do not differ markedly from that of children with heterosexual parents.
Research has shown that the adjustment, development, and psychological well-being of children is unrelated to parental sexual orientation and that the children of lesbian and gay parents are as likely as those of heterosexual parents to flourish (Patterson, 2004; Perrin, 2002; Stacey & Biblarz, 2001).
So there’s that.
This is also another example of the deep chasm that exists between women’s and men’s sports vis-a-vis gays. While any gay male skating in the National Hockey League today remains deeply closeted, two of the world’s premier gay female players are out, proud and having babies, happily presenting daughter Liv to followers on an Instagram account.
I think we know what would happen if the respective captains of the Canadian and American men’s entries at the Sochi Olympics—Sidney Crosby and Zach Parise—posted a pic of themselves with their new-born on Instagram or Twitter. That’s right, the Internet would break. And all the king’s horses and all the king’s men and not even Donald Trump could put it back together again.
At a time when horror stories of sexual harassment and the ongoing hissing contest between two men with nuclear weapons are prevalent, feel-good tales with happily-ever-after endings seem scarce. Caroline Ouellette, Julie Chu and baby Liv have given us one.
Under ordinary circumstances, the retirement of a physically broken-down defender who never set foot or wonky ankle on the pitch this season would be filed under ho-hum.
The thing is, Robbie Rogers wasn’t your ordinary soccer player.
He was gay, out and proud, the sole openly gay man among the approximately 4,350 athletes listed on the 145 rosters that represent five major men’s professional sports organizations in North America. One in 4,350. So, yes, Rogers’ retreat from the LA Galaxy and Major League Soccer this week warranted more than a line or two among the transactions noted on the agate page of a newspaper’s sports section.
But what did we learn from Rogers’ time as an out athlete in MLS, and what does his departure mean in the grand scheme of things? What does it tell us?
Well, on the positive side of the ledger, Rogers’ tour of duty in Los Angeles became a myth-busting exercise, in that the notion that a professional men’s team could not achieve success with a gay man in the lineup was laid bare as a misguided and completely false narrative. The Galaxy, with Rogers an every-day contributor, won the MLS Cup in 2014.
But we also know that Rogers was no Pied Piper.
Since he came out in 2013, only two other openly gay men have surfaced—Michael Sam and Jason Collins. Neither lasted much longer than a hiccup. Sam was on the field for the grand sum of 12 plays with Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League, while Collins finished the dog-eared days of a 13-season NBA career with the Brooklyn Nets.
At its basic, most-simplistic level, Rogers’ retirement means there are now zero openly gay men among the approximately 4,350 performing in the National Hockey League, National Football League, National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and MLS. Zero.
There are, no doubt, gay men in all five leagues, but they remain closeted. And that’s what Rogers’ retirement confirms for us—homosexuality in professional sports remains strictly a male issue.
Women don’t have that gay hangup.
You’ll find open lesbians in the Women’s National Basketball Association (Elena Delle Donne of the Washington Mystics married Amanda Clifton last week); in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League; in the National Women’s Hockey League; in the National Women’s Soccer League (Megan Rapinoe of the Seattle Storm is dating WNBA veteran Sue Bird of the Seattle Storm); and at the Olympic Games. And it extends beyond team sports. There are out lesbians on the pro golf and tennis tours. There have been for decades, dating back to Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova and beyond.
“Because there’s never been an honest, open discussion about lesbianism on tour, it has become a source of fascination among many golf fans and especially male reporters who have only heard various rumors and innuendo. Contrary to what many people think, we are not the Lesbians Playing Golf Association. By my count there are no more than two dozen gay women playing the tour right now. Considering there are 230 active members, you’re only talking about 10 per cent of the players, which from everything I’ve read is in line with the population as a whole.
“To every player I know, the issue is just not that big a deal. There are no super-freaky homophobes out here or militant man-haters. At most, a player’s sexuality may be an occasional practice-round conversation piece: ‘Hey, did you hear that so-and-so likes girls?’ ‘Really? Huh. So, did you hit an 8-iron or a 9?’ ”
Men’s sports, with their culture of machismo and misogyny, can’t get to where the women have been for more than 40 years. Often, the male jock’s go-to taunt for an opponent is a gay slur. Still. In 2017.
“My only regret in my 11-year career are the years I spent in the closet,” Rogers said in his parting comments on Instagram. “I wish I could have found the courage that so many young individuals have shared with me in the past five years to live honestly and openly as a gay person.
“To all the women and men who are still frightened to share their truth with the world, I’d encourage you to come out.”
Should we care if athletes in the five major men’s team sports leagues come out in numbers? Absolutely. We should all feel comfortable in our own skin, and it shouldn’t matter with whom we share our bedrooms.
The playing fields of North America (male division) remain anti-gay, despite Robbie Rogers’ and the LA Galaxy’s best intentions, and that’s not only wrong, it’s shameful.
Random thoughts before the candle goes out and the sun comes up…
So, ESPN has instructed its SportsCenter dinnertime co-anchor, Jemele Hill, to stand in the corner for two weeks due to her refusal to refrain from using her Twitter account as a political pulpit.
Already on notice for labeling Donald Trump a “white supremacist” and the “most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime,” Hill went off on the U.S. commander-in-chief’s good pal, Dallas Cowboys billionaire bankroll Jerry Jones, who cautioned his employees that there’d be hell to pay if they took a knee during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner. They either stand or they sit permanently, as in not play. In a series of tweets, Hill submitted that fans objecting to the Jones ultimatum could “boycott his advertisers.”
That, apparently, was in violation of ESPN’s social media policy, thus Hill was considered a repeat offender and shuffled to the corner.
If the Hill tweets are measured as a suspendable offence, what are we to make of other sports opinionists whose take on the U.S. president and his fanatical fixation for protesting jocks is less than flattering?
Dave Shoalts of the Globe and Mail, for example, called Trump “the buffoon in the Oval Office” in a piece condemning the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins’ visit to the White House. Bruce Arthur, a very active political voice on Twitter, wrote in his Toronto Star column that “Trump is a force for white nationalism and white supremacy. You can’t find a middle ground on white supremacy. When you try, there are suddenly very fine people among the KKK and Nazis.” He also described him as an “argle-bargle-belching president” with a “canker-sore ego.” Rosie DiManno, meanwhile, used her Star soap box to blast Trump as “this most odious of commanders-in-chief.” On the night the U.S. citizenry elected Trump the country’s 45th president, Steve Simmons of Postmedia and TSN tweeted: “The saddest night in American history.”
Apparently, opinionists at the Globe, the Star, Postmedia and TSN are more fortunate than Hill. They are not shackled by the inconvenience of censure. Nor should they be. ESPN got it all wrong.
I have two words for the Major League Baseball playoffs: Damn Yankees.
On the matter of unacceptable commentary, surely the aforementioned Steve Simmons crossed over to the dark side when he openly cheered for the dismissal of Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell during a segment of TSN The Reporters with Dave Hodge on Sunday. Bruce Arthur suggested that Farrell “could get fired it sounds like in Boston,” and Simmons chimed in saying, “Yay.” Should sports scribes and/or talking heads be cheering for people to lose their jobs? I mean, to suggest a player, coach or manager ought to be dismissed due to flawed or faulty performance is part of the gig. That’s analysis and opinion. But for a jock journo in mainstream media to openly root for dismissal, that’s shockingly unprofessional and shameful. Purely and totally shameful.
Sadly, Simmons, who has made a living by being loud, condescending and objectionable, doubled down on his stupidity, offering this on his Twitter account: “Any day that John Farrell loses, gets eliminated and gets tossed out is for my money a good day.” When one follower suggested he get past his ugly fixation with Farrell, whom Simmons has belittled ever since the skipper defected from the Toronto Blue Jays to the Bosox, the Postmedia columnist replied: “Nothing to get over. Guy was given opportunity in Toronto. Lied to management, public. Tried to leave after first year. No respect for that.” No respect because he lied? Everyone in sports lies, including Simmons (see fake Phil Kessel hot dog story). No respect because he switched teams? Again, fake righteousness. Simmons, be advised, secretly and deceitfully negotiated to leave the Calgary Sun for the Calgary Herald while still being paid by the Sun in the early 1980s. Pot meet kettle.
I don’t know about you, but I thought the Pittsburgh Penguins-meet-the-President schmooze at the White House on Tuesday came across as very awkward and uncomfortable. It was almost as if none of the “incredible patriots” really wanted to be there, even as Donald Trump advised the gathering that “everyone wanted to be here today.” The entire scene was creepy and cringe-worthy, including Mario Lemieux’s faux smile, and it was notable that the most notable of all the Penguins, Sidney Crosby, was stuck in the back row. I doubt that was by accident.
What do you call someone who sleeps through an entire century? Rip Van Ditka. “There has been no oppression (in the United States) in the last 100 years that I know of,” Ditka, the former Chicago Bears coach and Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end, said in a radio interview this week. Jim Crow laws, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. tossed in jail for peaceful protests, police turning fire hoses and German Shepherd dogs on black people, Stonewall, whites-only Major League Baseball, keeping women barefoot and pregnant…didn’t happen. None of it. Rip Van Ditka later qualified his take on history and allowed that, yes, he has witnessed oppression during his 78 years walking the third rock from the sun, but he didn’t elaborate. He didn’t have to. He’d already lost the debate.
Found out last weekend that legendary singer Lesley Gore was gay. How’d I miss that? Guess I was sleeping, like Mike Ditka. Whatever, Lesley could have cried at my party anytime. Even if it was Judy’s turn to cry.
I swear, Donald Trump might just be the funniest man alive. In a warped way, of course. I mean, the president of the United States believes he invented the word ‘fake.’ He said so in a chin-wag with one of his Republican toadies, Mike Huckabee, the other day. “The word…I think one of the greatest of all terms I’ve come up with is ‘fake,'” the Commander-in-Syntax declared. “I guess other people have used it perhaps over the years, but I’ve never noticed it.” Well, yes, according to Merriam-Webster, folks have been writing about fake this and fake that since it first appeared as an adjective in written form—in 1775. Oddly enough, that’s the same year that ‘burro’—as in donkey—was added to the lexicon. What a coincidence.
Trump’s Vice-Puppet, Mike Pence, ought not be trashed for walking out of Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday after members of the San Francisco 49ers took a knee during the Star-Spangled Banner. He has as much right to protest a protest as National Football League players have a right to protest racial/social injustice. The difference, of course, is that one is a phony, staged protest meant to stoke the fires of division and stroke the ego of the man in the White House, while the other is trying to bring about change.
Fact is, Donald Trump has done more than any athlete to promote the protest movement, including the man who started it all, Colin Kaepernick. If the Commander-in-Chaos had keep his lips zipped and not called out any “son of a bitch” who takes a knee, we’d only be hearing crickets today.
My normal routine on Sundays is to lay my little, ol’ body on the loveseat and watch movies. Four of them minimum. Well, I made the mistake of choosing Failure to Launch to lead off my flick-a-thon this past Sabbath. It’s a film featuring Matthew McConaughey. I lasted less than an hour. It’s a stupid film. First of all, Terry Bradshaw is in it and he basically plays his real life buffoon self, which is stupid. Also playing himself is McConaughey, who seemingly plays himself in every movie I’ve ever seen him in, which is also stupid. I enjoy a good romantic comedy—Billy Crystal and Debra Winger were terrific in Forget Paris, and Crystal and Meg Ryan were absolute delights in When Harry Met Sally—but there ought to be a law against the kind of stupid you see in Failure to Launch and McConaughey’s one-trick-pony acting. I switched channels and watched four people on CNN engage in a rousing, 15-minute exercise in Trump bashing. It was actually funnier than the film.
My faith in quality film-making was restored shortly thereafter by I’ll Cry Tomorrow, an intense, gripping biopic about singer Lillian Roth. Susan Hayward is absolutely brilliant in the lead role. Up next was Dances with Wolves, a different kind of western that, whether historically accurate or not, was extremely entertaining. And that’s saying something, because I’m not a Kevin Costner fan. Closing the show was Must Love Dogs (love Diane Lane), which more than made up for Failure to Launch.
Life is full of little surprises that sometimes feel like an ambush. Like when you realize you’re gay or transgender. What do you do now?
Coming out is seldom, if ever, easy.
It’s like there are two of you, one sitting on each shoulder, and both are engaged in push-me-pull-you mental gymnastics that can be crippling, if not paralyzing.
The positive of the two yous is determined to push you out of the closet, trying to sway you with comforting assurances that family, friends, co-workers, classmates and everyday acquaintances will welcome and embrace the gay you with inviting arms and adoring smiles.
“It’ll be safe,” she whispers. “You have nothing to worry about. You’ll be free and the world will finally see the true you. They’ll love you.”
Yet, just as you are about to step out, the other you pulls you back with words of caution, if not scare tactics: “Leave this closet,” she says, waving a red flag, “and you will be rejected, degraded, humiliated, bullied, sullied and maybe even beaten up. Is that what you really want your life to become?”
It is as I have written: Discovering yourself is the interesting part, accepting yourself is the hard part, revealing yourself is the frightening part that goes bump in the night.
It would be helpful, of course, were there a How-To Manual for Coming Out. We could simply turn to the appropriate chapter and, presto, we’re out and we’re proud gay, lesbian and transgender women, men and children. Life goes on tickety-boo. Except it isn’t quite as simple as picking up a copy of Popular Mechanics to learn how to change the oil on your SUV.
There is no right way to come out. There is no wrong way, either, although my personal experience taught me that the right and wrong of coming out is very much left to interpretation.
I advised those closest to me in a lengthy late-night email and, as I was to discover from a dear friend who has since basically disappeared from my life, it was callous, insensitive, hurtful and ill-timed. How dare I not advise her before all others, and how thoughtless of me to dump such naked honesty on her when she was dealing with her own level of personal strife.
“We had a special relationship,” she reminded me in an accusatory tone a number of years later, at our first get-together after the fact. “You should have told me first.”
“We have to do this in our own way and on our own timetable,” I tried to explain in an unflinching way that, I suppose, might have come across as clinical and unfeeling. “Each of us is different. We find our own way. We feel when the time is right, so we do it and expect the worst but hope for the best.”
Is there an element of selfishness in all that. By definition, absolutely. You are foremost and uppermost. Yet you also acknowledge that others might be wounded, which only adds more uncertainty to the original, push-me-pull-you pile of confusion.
It doesn’t end there, either.
Now that you’re out, are you supposed to behave and talk a certain way? That is, do you now immerse yourself into the gay collective and become a mouthpiece and advocate for the gay rights cause? Or do you simply go about the business of being you? Again, that’s an individual choice.
This past April, world champion and Olympic pole vaulter Shawn Barber came out in 54 words on his Facebook page. He was gay and he was proud. Nothing more to see here. Let’s move on.
“A person has the right to say as little or as much as they want about their orientation,” observed Jim Buzinski on the website Outsports.
But wait. Here we are three months later and the other main scribe at Outsports, Cyd Zeigler, has scolded Barber, who, at the recent Canadian track and field championships, told the Toronto Star that his being gay is “something that shouldn’t be a big deal.”
“Declaring to the world that you’re gay—even if it was in desperately early morning hours—then going into hiding is hardly the behavior of a champion,” Zeigler wrote in a gratuitous bullying, attack piece. “Barber, instead, has cringed. For whatever reason, he has decided that the whole ‘gay thing’ isn’t a necessary part of his identity as an athlete. So he’s pulled back. He’s stayed silent. No, even worse, he has belittled his own coming out.”
Zeigler has since softened his stance and rewritten the article, but his original remarks make it abundantly clear that Barber has let down the team, so to speak, and they serve as a classic example of not only a writer going well over the line of fairness in commentary but also of gays eating their own.
Coming out is hard enough and Shawn Barber is doing it his way, same as Zeigler did it his way and I did it my way. Expecting us to be anything more than who we are is not only unfair, it flies in the face of what gays desire more than anything from society—to be accepted for who we are.
Moreover, ol’ Maggie informs us that there were a couple of devil lesbians on the professional tennis circuit back in her day and, get this, they would take young players to parties. Imagine that. Young women partying. With lesbians. The horrors.
Ol’ Maggie has been saying a whole lot of oddball things lately and, if we are to believe the preacher lady from the Land of Oz, civilization is caught in the grip of a global plot orchestrated by the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender collective. Those pesky gays are stealing the minds of our children, don’t you know?
“That’s what Hitler did, that’s what communism did—got the mind of children,” she advises us. “And it’s a whole plot in our nation and in the nations of the world to get the minds of the children.”
Hmmm. Kind of reminds me of what the Roman Catholic Church tried to do to me when I was a sprig.
The nuns, when not whacking us on the knuckles with a yardstick, would regale us with far-out tales of fantasy gardens, poisonous fruit, hell fires, voodoo antics like turning the rib of a man into a woman and, best of all, talking snakes in a magical tree. Their stories were better than anything we watched on The Wonderful World of Disney. But apparently Margaret Court believes all the Bible-based, brainwashing blarney that my receptive mind was force-fed, and it’s quite clear that the great Australian tennis champion is convinced that gay and (especially) transgender people are the spawn of Satan.
“That’s all the devil,” she says of transgender kids.
Poor, ol’ Maggie. There’s just no escaping conniving gay men and (especially) lesbians. We’re always shoving ourselves in her face, so to speak. Why, it’s gotten so bad that she can’t even travel hither and yon on Qantas anymore because the airline’s CEO, Alan Joyce, is a gay man who, not surprisingly, promotes same-sex marriage, which is, in the world according to Maggie, “alternative, unhealthy, unnatural.” The right to wed is “not theirs to take.”
“I believe marriage as a union between a man and a woman as stated in the Bible,” she harrumphs.
Well, it’s about your Bible, Maggie: One person’s truth is another’s fiction.
The prune-faced preacher lady has been battered fore and aft for her Bible-thumping bleatings, which included a disapproving and extremely tacky tsk-tsking of Aussie tennis pro Casey Dellacqua and her partner Amanda Judd following the birth of the lesbian couple’s second child, a joyous event that Court greeted with “sadness” because the newborn has two mamas and zero papas.
I’d rather not join the Maggie-bashing chorus, though, because I think she’s unwittingly done the gay community a small favor.
The hell, you say. How can that be so?
Well, to be clear, I find her drawing a parallel between the LGBT collective and a mass murderer, Adolph Hitler, repugnant. It is not only offensive in the extreme, it shows she clearly has lost both the plot and the argument. She appears to be totally off her nut. But…I also think ol’ Maggie has provided us with a reminder, albeit appalling—at the top of Pride Month, no less—that we still have work to do. The fight for acceptance and equality continues. It has not been won. We must keep society’s feet to the fire.
I suppose we really shouldn’t care what comes out of this nutter’s mouth, but Court is a legendary sportswoman. No one has matched her two dozen tennis Grand Slam singles titles. One of the playing venues at the Australian Open in Melbourne is named in her honor (for now). And she is a pastor (the argument could be made that she’s more of a cult leader given that she created her own church, the Victory Life Centre in Perth). Thus, her voice carries some degree of heft. If not, the pushback from gay, transgender and, indeed, straight people against her homo/transphobic tripe wouldn’t be so robust.
I’ll just say this about that: Freedom of speech is a beautiful thing, but so is the freedom to shut the hell up. Ol’ Maggie might want to give that a try.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m stepping out to party with some lesbian tennis players.