Gay jocks round-up
by Roger Brigham
Outsports Revolution: Truth and Myth in the World of Gay Sports by Jim Buzinski and Cyd Zeigler Jr.; Alyson Books, $19.95
When I finished reading Outsports Revolution , the paperback opus written by the founders of the popular LGBT sports website Outsports.com, I was reminded of two quips I heard frequently during my years in Alaska. One view held that Seattle is the largest city in Alaska. The other view said that Anchorage is as close as you can get to Alaska without actually being there.
Both are ways of saying that the financial vitality of the Last Frontier is most easily visible and apparent in the urban centers that serve as its interface with the world of commerce, but if you do not get past those urban nests you will never experience the soul of the mountains, the pulse of the villages, the majesty of the forests, or any of the other richness that makes Alaska what it is and so worth knowing.
In this sense, Outsports Revolution gives a taste of the past decade in the LGBT community's Last Closet without ever chomping the meat. Targeted largely for the would-be spectator, it never quite captures the importance sports has played in shaping the lives of our leaders, or the sheer joy of just doing it.
The book is plagued by sloppy editing, superficial reporting and factual errors. Glenn Burke, for example, is incorrectly said to have disclosed his orientation in a 1982 Sports Illustrated article; "The Gay Dodger" actually appeared in Inside Sports. Solid nonfiction sources such as Dan Woog's Jocks and Patricia Nell Warren's The Lavender Locker Room are erroneously presented as novels. The book offers no index or bibliography. You can read the entire volume and never encounter the names Peg Grey, Rikki Streicher, Paul Mart, Sara Waddell Lewenstein, Rich Williams, Jim Provenzano or others who have made the LGBT sports world what it is today. San Francisco, birthplace of so many LGBT sports organizations, barely registers on the Outsports Richter scale.
The title Outsports Revolution, never defined, apparently refers to the Internet phenomenon Outsports.com created less than a decade ago: a lively virtual forum in which for the first time members of the queer sports community, closeted and uncloseted alike, could meet, exchange ideas, and realize that they were not nearly as alone as they had thought. David Kopay kicked the LGBT locker room door open with his groundbreaking autobiography in 1975, and the Gay Games blew the trumpet call to battle in 1982. Outsports.com is where today's emerging generation from those battles goes to flame, brag, question and come out.
The book offers only a few precious peeks into that forum, but it is in those excerpts that the book truly shines. The trials and tribulations of coming out are well-known in the queer community; what are less talked about are the additional emotional barriers encountered by folks coming out not just as gay, but as gay jocks. The personal testimonials presented are inspiring and insightful; anyone could learn from these profiles in courage.
A shame, then, that the authors don't reveal more. Tips on how to host a Super Bowl party are cute, but the potential was there for Outsports Revolution to be so much more. So many pages are devoted to text and photos of fashion, but scarcely a word is said about how politics and perception color the world of figure skating. The Federation of Gay Games is correctly criticized for being painfully slow to keep up with the growth in LGBT sports it has engendered, but the 2006 Outgames are let off the hook for their multimillion-dollar debacle, with scarcely a harsh word. No space is given to the nuts and bolts of how the LGBT world was nearly torn asunder the past few years, or what steps are needed to be taken to keep the LGBT sports boom booming.
Enjoy the book with all its heartaches and laughs, then put it next to the high school yearbook you keep in the attic. Pull them both out in 2017, ask yourself what you were thinking with that haircut, and take a measure to see how far sports has come.