Yeah. I’m going there. The Kobe Bryant gaff. The slur. The fated epithet. The sharp, collective intake of American breath and clutch of pearls at the realization that calling someone a f–got — or in this case, a f—king f–got — happens all the time, or more absurdly, could actually be committed by a celebrated professional athlete. Really? Come on! Who are we kidding? It happens on the court. On the street. Under a breath. Through a car window. In the mall. It just so happens that in this case, it happened in front of a crowd so large that the powers that be thought something ought to be done about it. Now, am I turning my nose up at a $100,000 fine slapped on a straight man for calling another straight man a f—king f–got? Hell no! Thank you! Let’s do it again! And then again! And I’m proud of GLAAD for seizing this opportunity to forge a partnership with the Lakers to make something good come of it! But seriously, when it comes to the actual slur, why the feigned surprise? Was it really all that shocking that Kobe might let it slip? Or that he should get caught using it? Perhaps the real shock should come from the fact that a straight man calling another straight man “gay” — no matter how derogatorily — is still considered fair game as the lowest of the low verbal slurs. That’s worth a thought. No worries. I’m not going that deep right now. I’ll leave that for another post. But think about it when you have a moment.
Back on the court with Kobe and friends? Slurs happen. And this one, in particular with some regularity. Check out all the quotes by gay ex-NBA ball player John Amaechi. It’s really no surprise. But let’s take it off the court. As an adult gay man, I’ve heard it behind my back, to my face, and to those standing right next to me. As a gay teen, and even younger, I heard those words — and multiple derivatives — behind my back, to my face, and those standing right next to me. Those words are the reason I support the “It Gets Better Project.” Those words are the reason I support the “Matthew Shephard Foundation” and love The Laramie Project based on his story. Those words are the reason I marched down Broadway in NYC when Prop 8 passed in California. Those words are the reason I take the time to give a co-worker a hard time for calling the copy machine “gay” when it gets a paper jam. It’s why I take the time to post on a nephew’s Facebook page that if he uses the word “homo” derogatorily on his page again, I’ll fly home and take him to task. Those words — as ugly as they are — are the reason I am who I am today.
And that’s my beef. My Kobe Beef. Just when you think we’ve evolved a little. Just when you think that maybe Prop 8 may actually be seen as embarrassment. Just when you think your former religion may actually come around just like it did for African Americans and the priesthood. Just when you feel like the work of so many for so long is finally paying off — that Millennials are so completely mainstreamed that Gay Pride is an oxymoron and Glee is the norm — Kobe Bryant opens his mouth, unleashes a world of hurt, and you realize there’s still a boat-load of work to do on the gay front. Actually, just on the “being human” front. Oh well, I’m in. Are you?