I typically love it when sports stars come out, because it shatters the myth that gay men are anything stereotypical and that, in fact, we are a many varied beast. Along with being talented in many arenas historically dominated by women, we’re actually pretty well represented when it comes to arbitrarily masculine pursuits like shooting guns and bringing home the bacon and cooking things on an open flame (incidentally, all of these pastimes feature a long list of woman participants, too).
And so my ears pricked up when the first active British rugby player strode out of the closet this past weekend and announced to a British newspaper that indeed he enjoyed man-love.
It wasn’t easy for him, he told the paper. "I had a wife and kids. I’ve been a builder, doorman, worked in factories—I play rugby. I tick every macho box. How could I be gay?"
Hmmm, I thought.
Literally none of those activities exempts you from being gay, because being gay has as much to do with marrying women and being macho as Cher has with aging.
Of course the young man's assumptions are not his fault. He is a victim of a world in which "I tick every macho box" is a great indicator of how fucked up greater society’s attachment to typical gender roles is. Typical male behavior is actually an absurd and arbitrary standard by which we make young men live, and carve them into the shapes we want. When a penis-bearing person chooses not to partake in such typical behaviors, a large portion of the world we inhabit has absolutely no idea what to do with him.
And it means that young men everywhere are being punished for not behaving in the correct way, and end up in marriages they hate, bound into families they may not have wanted, maintaining the pressure of keeping their sexual preference or gender incongruence a secret. All because of, and I keep using the word, arbitrary rules we have set for how men should act.
I once saw former San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh say on TV that football was one of the few remaining parts of the world that taught boys how to be men. This insipid, vacuous philosophy is a great summary of just how imbecilic the definition of masculinity is: a game where you bash each other, chasing a testicle-shaped ball, is what makes people men? By that standard, beating your wife will make your cock bigger.
No, "being a man" is fundamentally a ridiculous concept, and gives no fig for anyone that doesn’t fit into the pre-planned destiny determined by the bulge in his pants. It also assumes that everyone with a bulge in their pants is a man, and everyone without one is a woman—a fundamentally flawed and transphobic concept. As flawed as "the best man is a macho man."
Which leads us directly to why a man could be surprised that he could want a cock up his bum even though he "ticks every macho box."
"Macho" does not equal "not gay." Playing rugby or football does not make you immune to homosexuality. Marrying women doesn’t make it go away, nor does working in a factory or being a doorman or living in a conservative town. None of these things make the gayness go away. How do we know this? We’ve all fucked people who tried them.