Just under 11,000 athletes from around the world arrived in London last week to partake in the Olympic Games. As I understand it, at least 23 of these athletes are openly gay. These sport-stars include Megan Rapinoe, Matthew Mitcham, Jessica Landström, Lisa Raymond and Seimone Augustus -- household names.
These remarkable people are to be commended. Not only for their athletic ability and for representing their countries on the world stage, but also for representing themselves, in full. These people are role models. They are setting a fine example for the young and old alike. They are perfect examples that illustrate how being gay comes with no disability, no disadvantage -- you could even say it doesn't matter in life. But for now it does matter. It's an honorable thing these sporting heroes have done and they deserve to be honored for it.
I certainly feel that it's cause for celebration and so I went about sharing in the joy and marking what I see as a triumph for the gay community. I posted much the same sentiment as I've just expressed here on one of the many news articles covering the topic. I received a response. It was negative and disapproving. It's best to paraphrase, but essentially the opposing comment centered on the notion of sex, and how people don't want to know about, or even disapprove of, what gay people do in the bedroom. Who said anything about sex? It wasn't me. It wasn't the news article. This, however, was not an isolated incident. I've seen it before. I hear about this "gay lifestyle." Is that what the "gay lifestyle" is? Sex, sex and more sex? That's all we gay people do? Seriously?
This mentality obviously exists in 2012, but it certainly does not belong in the 21st century. A wealth of education is freely available in our world. Why are people depriving themselves of it? These unrealistic views represent misinformed, ill-educated, fearful, naïve and narrowly minded beliefs. They're harmful. Even more surprisingly, it's an admission some people are willing to make openly.
It cannot be beyond comprehension that gay people also have jobs and careers, play and watch sports, socialize, walk our dogs, take exams, celebrate holidays, save for a house, pay the bills, eat, sleep and drink. That gay people live everyday lives too. What is there to misunderstand? Where is this naivety coming from? Too much TV? We can thank television and film for attempts at bringing LGBT lives into mainstream media, though entertaining as they were, they've clearly left the unenlightened under a misguided, exaggerated illusion. It's not all Broke Back Mountain and dancing in the Blue Oyster bar. Leather and glitter don't feature in my world.
I note that the dictionary defines heterosexuality as "sexual feeling or behavior directed toward a person or persons of the opposite sex." The same dictionary defines homosexuality as "sexual desire or behavior directed toward a person or persons of one's own sex." I see little difference apart from a gender reference, which both specify equally. There was no mention of this "gay lifestyle." Clearly some need to get their head out of the clouds -- and even their mind out of the gutter, for that matter -- and keep up with the real world. Being gay has no more to do with sex than being heterosexual does. There is nothing unique to the gay community in that regard, we're just like everyone else.
There is a fear in operation. There is no doubt, especially in recent months, that there is more and more mounting evidence and examples to suggest that gay people are and always have been "normal" and ordinary people, too, just like our heterosexual counterparts. The evidence is so much so that long-held beliefs are being challenged, dashed and proved otherwise. Essentially, some people will have to admit to themselves that they've been wrong all along. Is that the hold up? Nobody likes to admit that they're wrong. Ironically, is their pride trying to obstruct ours?
President Obama declared June to be Pride Month. The world caught that announcement. If July has shown the world anything, it's that some people, who happen to be gay, are not only ordinary but they're extraordinary people too. Gay people are also capable of making history and indeed have already done so on a very great and admirable scale. Plenty of gay people are currently representing their countries in sporting fields competing in the Olympic Games and as we've learned recently, one even flew to space. Is Dr. Sally Ride any less of a hero? Of course not. She broke barriers during her lifetime. She continues her contribution toward education in death too.
It's no great secret: some people are gay. What difference does that make to anybody? What impact does it have on anyone else's life? These narrow and harmful views are motivated by fear, not understanding. They're driven by intolerance, not empathy. Nevertheless they are beliefs held strongly by some, but it would appear they're on shaky ground. It's time for change, and change is coming. And it's not gay people that need to change. Gay people are not the problem. Being gay isn't a problem. How those who are gay are perceived and, indeed, treated -- that's the problem. Education will correct these misconceptions and that's why I feel it's important that these 23 Olympians are out and proud. It's important that those in need of this knowledge become aware that not only are some gay people world-class athletes, but indeed, some are doctors, teachers, nurses, politicians, actors, veterinarians, judges, shopkeepers, singers, police officers and even astronauts. The list goes on. We, too, have passion, we, too earn livelihoods, some of us are very career-orientated, and some of us excel in our chosen fields. Again, there's nothing unique to the gay community in that regard, we're just like everyone else.
Euripides said, "There is just one life for each of us: our own." Our lives are very much our own and every one of us deserves to act in accordance with not simply the desires of our bodies, but our hearts and minds too. We're all here chasing after that one common goal in life, that of happiness. Needless and harmful obstructions benefit nobody, not even those creating them. At the end of it all, in our final days and hours, whose life will we look back on but our own?
If a "gay lifestyle" consists of getting out of bed in the mornings and trying to make the most of both ourselves and the day, then yes, it does it exist. But we gay people like to call it what everyone else calls it: life.