Photo: Mark Schierbecker
I’m really tired of our societal obsession with sexuality.
Now that’s not the sort of comment I’ve heard here and there all my life, that goes something like “I don’t care what they do to each other as long as I don’t have to look at it.” (You need to artificially deepen your voice and soften your hard consonants a bit when you say that, something like Karl in Sling Blade.)
No, I mean I’m tired of assigning sexuality excessive importance when we talk about who someone is. Do you think Michael Sam is interested in being a gay professional football player? Or do you think Michael Sam is just interested in being a professional football player?
I’m certainly not minimizing what Sam did. It wasn’t easy. It almost certainly cost him a significant amount of money, in terms of his draft stock. It’s opened him to sustained hate and ridicule for years to come.
But unless I’m badly misunderstanding him, he didn’t do it because he wants to talk about his sexuality for the rest of his life. He did it because he doesn’t want to talk about his sexuality for the rest of his life. He’s unloading this. He’s saying “OK, now can we talk about football?”
This is something he’s shedding—not only for himself, but others in similar situations. My greatest hope for it is that one day, we’ll look back at Sam’s announcement as the moment it started becoming less of a big deal. Indeed, I hope I’m right about Sam, and he becomes gradually more dismissive of anyone bringing it up to him. We talked about that already. Let’s talk about ball now.
“Then why did he bring it up at all, if he doesn’t want to talk about it?” somebody just semi-growled. To me that’s a hair’s width from the sort of comment I mentioned in the second paragraph above. He’s doing it to starve it of oxygen. He’s doing it so going on a dinner date won’t be a national “scandal.”
He’s doing it because he doesn’t want to pretend as a way of life. God bless him for that.
Longtime readers may remember that my favorite director is Stanley Kubrick. His final film, Eyes Wide Shut, generated a lot of buzz ahead of release not just because it was his first feature in 12 years, but also because of how sex-soaked it was supposed to be. Indeed, sex is a pervasive subject in the film, yet it’s hardly lurid or even particularly titillating. It just is. And that’s part of the point.
But I’ll leave the detailed analysis for another time. I brought it up to mention a favorite detail of mine in the film. During the sparse opening credits, right before the title, Nicole Kidman wordlessly drops her dress to the floor and shows us her full, spectacular backside.
I’ve always interpreted that as Kubrick saying “OK, tongue-waggers, there’s your skin. See? May we please get to the film I’ve made now?”
I think the Michael Sam situation is similar. This is “OK, folks, I’m gay. There it is. Now, on to life.”
Media figures, if you genuinely want to support Sam, then in his next interview, ask him the same questions you’d ask any other promising young NFL prospect.