Comment Of The Day: Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 2/25/ 2019: Martina Navratilova A Gender Bigot?…WHAT’S HAPPENING?????

I love it when a reader comes up with a superlative comment on an older post. It’s gratifying that such posts are still being read, and it also leads to diversity of subject matter.  Pennagain dived back into the gender issues in sports, which began here with commentary on the the still roiling controversy over whether it is fair to allow trans males, or women transitioning to men, to compete against unaltered, biological women. That led to a comment about gays in sports, and that to Pennagain’s astute Comment of the Day on the post “Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 2/25/ 2019: Martina Navratilova A Gender Bigot? The Founding Fathers Nazis? Art Galleries Discriminating Against The Blind? WHAT’S HAPPENING?????”

Of course it’s complex. One of the reasons for that complexity is that the syllogisms are the wrong way round. Taking your two examples, I would say that there are more gay men in figure skating than in, say, speed skating because gay men with grace, as well as the will to undergo the training and discipline it takes to compete at top levels, do better than those without; the same as in ballet. Canada’s unquestionably non-gay Elvis Stojko is a good mirror example: Stojko won three World championships and two Olympic silver medals without exhibiting any particular grace at all; instead, he was the first person to land a quadruple-double jump combination. And a couple of dozen other major wins. That’s because figure skating has that “figure” side that concentrations on strength and precision. Either “side” can overwhelm the other (the “artisitic” side often does so in women’s figure skating), but muscle and a sense of timing can be acquired. Grace, ease and smoothness of movement can also be acquired (usually starting at a very early age) but since we have labeled them “feminine,” and feminine is equated with gay, and gay continues to be seen as undesirable — non-gay boys are not going to be encouraged to participate.

On the other hand, gay men with the sought-after qualities (1) have become more acceptable, even admired as those who stand as champions for their school, state or country (2) non-gay boys are more frequently discouraged by themselves or others to enter the sport because of continuing stigma (3) thus there are more openings for gay men …. of a particular body type: slender, strong, graceful and unashamed of it.

Swimming, track…Another sport that attracts gay men is diving, though they are less recognizable by people who think their “gaydar” goes one millimeter beyond the obvious, such as Greg Louganis, 4 times gold medal Olympic champion, a so-far unbeaten record. More recently, Tom Daley, a double World champion in the 10-metre platform event — that’s diving from 32.8 feet up in the air, folks. Gay men, you know, are supposed to be wimps and cowards, right? He was 15 and 17 years old respectively when he marked those achievements and has continued to rack up awards.

That’s what stigma, and homophobia and so-called “normal” people do to those who are different. These are the ones who stand out from the crowd by no choice of their own and become targets. They have two ways to go. They can exaggerate their difference – this is not the place to go into the psychology of that – or they can excel in some way that raises their difference above the commonness of their tormentors, gay or not. (The pretty people compete on more sustainable grounds, sometimes continuing the masquerade into adulthood, flying under the gaydar, so to speak.) That’s the reason someone like burly Raymond Burr with 90 bad-guy movie credits and the legend of Perry Mason behind him still has a percentage of disbelievers in his fan base who would deny him that 33 years of (openly secret) gay partnership. So too Tchaikovsky, da Vinci, Robert Reed, Grandpa Walton, John Ireland, William Blain “Bill” Richardson, Will Geer, (no, I won’t get into the Cary Grant/Randolph Scott relationship), and excrescences like Bernard King — — can shrug it off, even from the grave (perhaps more easily from there since, besides the nil nisi bonum stricture, the more manly or untouchable they appeared, the more respectable or above-the-crowd their lives, the more any suggestion of homosexuality was and is denied, even when it was publicly (or legally) acknowledged.

I’m using the gay male image sample rather than the lesbian because it is the simpler correlation, Apart from the fact that “butch” lesbians often became/become competitive in tennis, for instance, or in track, golf or other individual athletics, for the same reason gay men do – to be tough enough to withstand the bullying, mental and physical that often comes — as it does with the gay male victims — not only from non-gay people but from the straight-looking, straight-acting, popular, pretty people who pop out of their closets every day to jump on other queer folks so they can feel better about themselves, women have historically been ignored, not taken seriously, compared invidiously and ridiculously to men in the same sport (publicity stunts notwithstanding), jeered and sneered at, exposed and embarrassed, assaulted and worst of all, excused for being their sex. They need to develop tougher hides than their “lipstick lesbian,” girly-girl counterparts who can shelter behind them or form liaisons of their own. In our culture, it is far easier for a feminine looking lesbian to hide, to “change her mind” and her looks like a chameleon, to nest with a man out of convenience, to be the “sister” in the three-some. These are the great unseen. And that is one reason why lesbian volleyball players … and gay skaters … stand out.

The other reason is that America is not yet used to, and is rather resentful of, having “out” people jumping around having hissy fits on the tennis court when they are supposed to be keeping their heads down in sin and in shame. Too late to build the wall now, m’dears.

40 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 2/25/ 2019: Martina Navratilova A Gender Bigot?…WHAT’S HAPPENING?????

    • Cold, Steve. But somehow appropriate, especially after he busted his head open on a platform and bled-HIV-tainted blood in the pool. I would assume, forestalling obvious comments, that there were enough chemicals in the water to handle it.

      • Didn’t think it was still necessary to hold on to the fact sheets we had in the 80s but it does make it easier. I left the myths all together, instead of just picking out your question, just in case.

        HIV cannot be transmitted by:

        Surfaces – HIV cannot be transmitted by contact with toilet seats, eating utensils, musical instruments, hugs or handshakes.
        Air – Breathing the same air as someone living with HIV does not transmit HIV. Coughing, sneezing or spitting cannot transmit HIV either.
        Kissing – Saliva contains very small amounts of HIV and so the risk is negligible unless both partners have large open sores in their mouths or bleeding gums.
        Insect bites – Insects such as mosquitoes don’t transmit HIV because they do not inject blood when they bite.
        Sterile needles – Sterilized or new needles and syringes are safe from HIV transmission. Do not share used needles.
        Water – HIV cannot survive in water, so you are free from HIV transmission in swimming pools, baths or shower areas.

        • Thanks, Penn. I knew it required either a dirty needle or a transfer of body fluids. I did not know that water, in general killed it. I did, however, assume that all the various chemicals in the diving pool would render it harmless.

    • I’m laughing too much at that one… I’m going to hell. Also, was that typo intentional? 😛

      Tangentially related, my best memory of Louganis is from the ’88 Olympics, when little me watched him whack his head against the springboard on a reverse dive and then come back to win it all. I was and still am impressed.

      • “I’m laughing too much at that one… I’m going to hell. Also, was that typo intentional?”

        Mmmmmaybeeee…. of course it’s not nice to make guys like Greg the BUTT of jokes!

    • Congratulations, Steve-O. The emoticon shows you are learning to laugh at your worst fears. Now perhaps you’ll try going back on your meds.

      Greg Louganis is someone I know well, by the way, a man who has saved lives and made positive changes for hundreds. A kind, gentle, giving person – no saint, just a good guy, the kind of role model you should have had in your life.

    • Congratulations, Steve-O. The emoticon shows you are learning to laugh at your worst fears.

      Greg Louganis is someone I know well, by the way, a man who has saved lives and made positive changes for hundreds. A kind, gentle, giving person – no saint, just a good guy, the kind of role model you should have had in your life

      • Because everyone who makes a joke that someone else has set up to happen is deathly afraid of the subject of that joke. Glad you know him, I’d tell you to pass the joke along, but, admittedly, it’s a bit of an antique.

      • P.S. That WAS written in a moment of lashing out. I wrote out the belief that goes with it – it is all right to be cruel and jerky when you are angry, and it is ok to make fun of people’s names if they are odd and people’s sexuality if it’s other than hetero. The belief doesn’t make a lot of sense. I think we’d all do a little better if we wrote out the underlying belief for our actions before we acted.

  1. I never gave much thought to the sexual preferences of well known people. If they excelled great if not, thats OK too. I also never gave much thought to the preferences of unknowns either.

    However, when someone engages in exaggerated behaviors typically identified with being gay whether that behavior is as benign as that of the blonde haired guy from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy to a more provocative leather clad fellow as depicted on Southpark episodes, I find them obnoxious.

    But, the issue at hand is based on fairness. If you believe that Eric Cartman was in the right to enter the Southpark Special Olympics by pretending to be disabled then you see no problem with men competing as women simply because they claim to be women.

    • I really don’t care that much what someone’s orientation is unless they get exaggerated in my face. I loved watching a marathon of Perry Mason movies over the weekend, because it did not matter to his performance. But when someone gets militant and detracts from their work in any field just to rail at me, they lose my respect. Just like the sex kittens who can’t string two sentences, they embrace the bad stereotype instead of being an exemplar. They are setting their cause back, whether they realize it or not. (My gaydar is pretty bad, because I judge on actions not dating habits)

      • mariedowd: “gaydar” is a myth for the large proportion of lesbians and gay men. Playing queer is the easiest thing in the world. I’ll bet you could ask any child of say, seven or older to act out being gay and they could give you a Oscar-worthy performance. But that large proportion are people who come out in their later years, who grew up as straight and were comfortable in their skins, with no more (and no less) self-doubt than anyone else. Until they discover who they are, and start to feel uncomfortable in those skins … and find out you can’t just slide back in without a lot of mis-fitting, they won’t give away a thing. After that, some people will go on being uncomfortable in those old skins for the rest of their lives and that’s a shame. I hear you about people in the workplace and acting out at inappropriate places and times and that’s just as reasonable if they have ugly tempers or complain about stuff all the time or like to whistle off key under their breath. If it’s just because they’re acting queer though, maybe they have a good reason and maybe they need to be set down some. It sounds like you can tell the difference, so you don’t need gaydar anyway.

    • Chris Marschner says: when someone engages in exaggerated behaviors typically identified with being gay whether that behavior is as benign as that of the blonde haired guy from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy to a more provocative leather clad fellow as depicted on Southpark episodes, I find them obnoxious.

      Two different things going on here, I think. I’m assuming these are both TV shows. I remember South Park, always enjoyed it. Cartman is a cartoon challlenge rather than a character. Just about everything Cartman does is meant to safely test and stretch the limits of your own taste. All of it is exaggerated. On purpose. Unlike the others, and the more of Cartman (also Terrence & Phillip), you can take, the stronger and more grown up and sophisticated you feel. If you find parts of cartoon characters uncomfortably over the top, but still watch them, you’re still trying to figure it out. The other situation is trickier. I’m not sure what character you’re referring to as the blonde haired guy — I haven’t had a TV for ten years — but I assume this is a real actor? If so, and he is gay (not just acting or taking direction specifically to exaggerate) then it is possible that you are watching natural behavior. To find someone’s involuntary behavior obnoxious reminds me of a man who was being interviewed about his experience accidentally meeting Stephen Hawking. The interviewer’s question was something like: “If the world was about to end and Mr. Hawking was trying to explain to you the one certain way to prevent it, would you change your mind?” The man replied that he wouldn’t be able to look at or listen to him because he was so ugly and had such an obnoxious voice. In either case, the observer is not analyzing what he’s experiencing, he’s reacting to something in his own mind. If it’s worth finding out what that is and dealing with it, then you can. Otherwise, you just have to live with that obnoxious feeling or at least figure out why it is that you feel compelled to tell everyone about the feeling.

  2. Interesting and accurate observations, PA, but what do they have to do with ethics of trans-sexuals competing in one or the other of men’s or women’s sporting competitions?

    • Your observations bring to mind Vladimir Horowitz on there being three types of pianists: “Jewish pianists, homosexual pianists, and bad pianists.”

      One of my very favorite reference books in my very modest personal library is “The Gay and Lesbian Literary Heritage.” I wish I’d had it on my desk as an English major in the early ’70s. The question is, how many straight people are there of much consequence in the arts?

      But again, that has nothing to do with trans-sexuals competing in binary (there’s a hip term) sports competitions.

    • Thank you OB for asking that question. Gays & transgenders have nothing to do with each other in spite of the Stonewall organization putting us all under the same (tacky) rainbow umbrella.

        • Sheesh, it’s kind of like deja vu all over again.

          Regards Q. And happy baseball is back day, Jack.

          That’s an interesting issue. Why are transgender issues clumped up with gay and lesbian issues? And, as a fairly tangential side note, isn’t it interesting that the former Bruce Jenner (sorry, I’ve forgotten his new name) dates women as a woman. So, he’s not only transgender, he’s a lesbian. Maybe that’s the sort of thing that brings it into the gay tent?

          • Actually, if Jenner’s transition were legitimate, Pennagain’s gender-nonconforming overachiever model would fit Bruce’s pretransition-surgery’ 4-gold-medal career perfectly.

            • Rich in CT: The examples I gave were gay. Part of what I was trying to get across was that they were not gender-nonconforming (I didn’t even think of it at the time) and not even very far out from the popular norm: watch a woman tackle a stuck bottlecap sometime, or a man (I can’t find a better example than I already gave) tending do his newborn child. It’s our definition of gender that doesn’t conform. That’s what needs to be broadened to include the full spectrum of natural behavior. I think you know what I mean. There are men who are so over-the-top swaggering macho or women with ultra-feminine characteristics: such giggly blushing shrinking violets that they seem like caricatures of themselves. Gay is stereotyped toward the feminine end of that spectrum but it can – and does – go all the way over on the other end too. Make sense?

      • Hi Mrs. Q. As you can see if you look at my comment of March 28, 2019 at 8:18 am, you will see that I made no such connection; I was responding to Jack’s thread, which I copied out for you and OB.

        Neither Stonewall nor the rainbow flag have anything to do with adding the initials to LandG. I have always preferred queer or an overarching “gay,” to the GL myself. In fact, the genderfuck drag of the 70s included both non-gay and non-transgender people; in the pre-AIDS days true coalitions were still possible without playing identity politics games. The prejudices of organizations like NOW helped align the outsiders: women and men who genuinely liked each other,. POC/homo/trans/SM/a few religions, and even class went by the board to a small extent. For awhile they all found shelter under that rainbow flag because it was meant to be for and stood for that which is fast becoming a dirty word: diversity. You’re right it no longer waves over everybody: it was co-opted for sure. But it ain’t tatty.

        • PA, I think the rainbow flag has become tatty because it’s turned into a racket. As Jack noted so eloquently in the original Martina post, the groups on the outs have become power hungry. What’s the line about how eventually every movement turns into a racket? See, eg., the SPLC. For my money “diversity” has turned into a weapon used in a non-stop shake down racket.

        • PA I need to remind myself to not jump in when I haven’t seen the full conversation. Thanks for clarifying.

          Still can’t stand the rainbow flag. All it represents to me now is hatred for lesbians who don’t want to sleep with men in dresses (therapeutic re-education to make dykes like c*ck has been suggested by such loving & “open-minded” folks), transing 6 year olds by permanently making them medical patients, and a contest for who can be the biggest victim. The rainbow is another big lie, and it sure as heck doesn’t represent anything I hold dear.

    • Sorry to confuse you, OB. I can see that several points have no referent. My post was an answer to Jack’s; both appear in the Reply/Comment section — a new thread, a diversion. (The definitive answers to the questions raised by others in the title subject were dealt with thoroughly by Zoe Brain.)

      Specifically, Jack said:
      March 24, 2019 at 10:44 am

      It’s an interesting topic, and more complex than immediately is apparent. So many pro women’s basketball players are gay that there have been discrimination claims from straight players. Straight female tennis players have commented now and then that they are in the minority, but there have certainly been man straight champions—Chris Evert, Margaret Court, Serena (I think, though he husband seems to be invisible). On the other side, an overwhelming majority of male figure skaters are gay. I remember laughing out loud as a news story in the 80s that expressed confusion that the curse of AIDS seemed to be falling so hard on the ranks of male skaters. “Why? What strange appetite does the scourge have for this one sport?”

      I hope that helps.

      • Thanks, PA. Your COTD is a very eloquent response to Jack’s comment. Ice skating certainly wasn’t the only area of endeavor that has been decimated by AIDS. The NY theater and musical ranks were demolished in the ’80s. A gay guy who graduated a year or two ahead of me from my college was a theater critic for TIME. All of a sudden, he was gone. This was before anyone even knew what was going on. There was a striking African or Jamaican runner at the big law firm I toiled away at, one of the few members of a small cadre of gay support staff. He could have passed for Grace Jones. He wasn’t around all of a sudden, then it was reported he was sick, then he was dead. In a matter of seemingly a few weeks. It was a brutal time.

        Maybe some day we can have an open forum discussion about whether there should be separate athletic competitions for gay and straight women? Gay diving and straight diving? Gay men’s ice skating? Straight guys ice skating? Transgender tennis? Transgender wrestling? Straight women’s wrestling?

        There are even times I wonder whether being gay isn’t an advantage in politics. No kids allows you to campaign all hours of the day and night or sit around with other earnest people and discuss policy or sit on school boards. There was a group of young gay and lesbian lawyers in Phoenix when I was starting out practicing law. That group’s (clique?) most famous member and graduate is Janet Napolitano.

        In any event, I think it’s fair to say that in any number of areas of human endeavor, being gay provides a tremendous advantage. To pretend being gay is ALWAYS a detriment is simply counterfactual. Almost everyone I’ve met while studying the piano for the last twenty years is gay or lesbian. They all play WAY better than I ever will. And I’m okay with that.

        I’ll give you a good, recent example: I’ve been working on Robert Schumann’s “Kinderszenen” for what seems like my entire life (easily half a year). My (gay) teacher has been trying to get me to play pieces in the spirit in which they were written as a way to make them easier to play technically. (An interesting and to me at least, seemingly counter intuitive approach, but he’s a great pedagogue.) We were working on No. 5, “Perfect Happiness,” which follows, and satisfies, No. 4, “Pleading Child.” So, No. 4 is a kid begging for some, say, ice cream, and No. 5 is his joy upon getting what he has asked for. No. 5 is probably the most difficult piece in the suite and perhaps needs to be played the fastest. I’m cautious and play carefully. Jim is always trying to get me to play faster even if it seems reckless and incorrect. Jim asked, “Bill, as a child, were you ever deliriously happy and didn’t it cause you to just race around in utter joy?” I thought for quite a while, sort of wracking my brain and finally answered, “You know, Jim? I don’t think so. No, I don’t think I’ve ever been that happy.” He guffawed and said, “Oh, I was. I was a little fairy most of the time growing up. It drove my parents nuts!”

        I guess I’ve come to believe that being gay rather than straight gives a person an emotional range and fluidity that is simply not shared by straight people. And in many endeavors that’s an advantage. Am I jealous? Sure. Am I uncomfortable being straight? No. Would my mother have been at all concerned if I’d been gay as long as I (just one of her two boys) had become a Catholic priest? Hell no! But that’s another topic all together. Hah!


      • Now, I’m getting confused. Why would gayness or straightness have anything to deo with athletic ability? Transgender, I can actually see the problem, but otherwise, no.

  3. Hi Jack, I’m down here. Finally found a space to say thank you for the COTD space. It is always an honor and a pleasure. What’s more, it’s also worth spending both the thinking and the doing time on..

  4. Objection, Your Honor ! Goes to pleonasm ! Will Geer and Gramps Walton are one and the same ! Oh, the puffery !
    Please explicate: who is denying Sugar Ray Burr what, again ? I deny the denial. ☝🏼

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