Given the unpleasant experiences a shy heterosexual boy has in locker rooms growing up, I cannot imagine what it would be like to be openly gay in similar circumstances. Books about lower-level hockey always seem supercharged with testosterone, and one suspects that introducing openly gay teammates would result in violence.
It's a little comforting that these excerpts suggest otherwise. Still, I don't believe that it's really anybody's business whether a professional is gay or straight so long as they believe in consensual relationships (they are role models, after all). It would be nice if everybody could bring their honey to the same events, though.
As a hockey player, Aaron represents a paradox in relation to orthodox masculinity. He has survived the serious bodily risk that comes with this violent sport, but he fears another kind of damageâ€”the loss of respect if he were to come out. â€œIf people found out I was gay, it would ruin everything,â€ he tells me. He was initially leery to give me this interview and revealed only parts of his identity to me at a time in order to build trust. He has more practical fears too. He fears coming out would cause him to lose ice time or to become â€œthe bastard of the company unit.â€Â
â€œIâ€™m not afraid of being selected out for punishment, my team would beat ass if anyone tried to mess with me, but I just donâ€™t think it would help my playing.â€ He continued, I really love what I do. Iâ€™m like a racehorse on the track, eager to run. I want to skate. I want to play; it hurts me not to. Iâ€™m one of the luckiest guys, to be able to do what I want and get paid way too much for it, and Iâ€™m afraid that coming out would spoil that. I just wish people didnâ€™t care so much.â€Â
Aaron struggles to lead some semblance of a normal romantic and social life away from the prying eyes of his teammates. He has a boyfriend of several years, gay friends, and he permits himself to visit gay clubs when he is on the roadâ€”which is often. On rare occasions, he even runs into other professional hockey players when visiting gay establishments.Â
The answers (found on the pages of my book) clearly shows that gay athletes would receive much more support after coming out than objection to their coming out, and that most professional athletes just wouldnâ€™t care. I show that not only would openly gay athletes retain their sponsorships (if they had them in the first place), but that they would actually gain a number of sponsorships as well. More so, I show that a fledging career could be transformed by the simple proclamation of, â€œIâ€™m gay.â€ For example, why doesnâ€™t a third-rate benchwarmer, someone who has spent his career shuffling between the minor levels and the major league bench, come out? Why wouldnâ€™t a sponsor-less, no-name athlete, come out? Imagine the publicity. Talk show interviews, book contracts, a plethora of sponsorship offers, perhaps even a movie deal too. Who wouldnâ€™t want that? The answer is that saying, â€œIâ€™m Gay,â€ is not so easy for these men. It is this answer that is spelled out in the pages of my book.