Gay Sports League Bans Switch Hitting

Posted on April 27th, 2010 by Katherine Franke

Mike Piazza - Not Gay

In May 2002, the New York Post printed on Page Six (the gossip page): “There is a persistent rumor around town that one Mets star who spends a lot of time with pretty models in clubs is actually gay and has started to think about declaring his sexual orientation.”

Everyone who knew anything about New York baseball at the time knew to whom the Post was referring: Mike Piazza, the Mets’ All-Star catcher – someone about whom rumors of being a “switch hitter” had circulated in club houses for a while.  Desperate to quell the rumor,

Mike Piazza's Wedding - Still Not Gay

Piazza said to the media the next night:  “I’m not gay.  I’m heterosexual. I can’t control what people think. I date women.”

While Major League Baseball does not have an official policy on it, everyone knows that the unstated rule is that MLB is a straight league.  Should rumors start to circulate questioning a player’s (hetero)sexual orientation, the owners and players are lightening quick to put those rumors down.

Women’s sports is, of course, even worse since girl jocks have always been seen as lesbians whereas guys are supposed to be athletic.

OK, we’ve got work to do in professional sports when it comes to homophobia.

In response to the homophobia that runs throughout amateur and professional sports, the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance was formed in 1977 as

a private organization with the mission of fostering a safe place for Gay/Lesbian softball players to play and compete in softball.   We believe that team sports can offer opportunities for personal enrichment, and a sense of community that is not available otherwise.  It is not unlike other groups whom choose to organize around a commonality such as the Black American Softball Assoc., or the Native American Indian Softball Assoc.  Our group recognizes that in the arena of team sports, homophobia is still all too common.  Almost daily it seems, one hears or reads of another gay bashing, often resulting in fatal outcomes.  These tragedies serve as a reminder of our mission to provide a safe place for Gay/Lesbian players to enjoy competition while not compromising their true identity.   See full statement here.

How wonderful – a safe place to play what is informally known by all in the know as the official non-sexual sport of the lesbian and gay community.

But is there a difference between MLB having an unofficial sexual orientation (heterosexual) and the NAGAAA having an official one (homosexual)?  What does it mean for an athletic league to have an official sexual orientation?  Surely to do so you’d have to define what it means to have the qualifying orientation, and there would be rules that disqualify those who don’t have it.

Well, don’t worry.  The NAGAAA has made all these rules clear in their “Instruments of Governance” (just laugh quietly to yourself at the joke I could be making here about the term that the NAGAAA selected for what everyone any others call “By-Laws”):

Gay – means having a predominant sexual interest in a member or members of the same sex and includes both gay men and lesbians, Rule 1.14:

Heterosexual – means having a predominant sexual interest in a member or members of the opposite
sex, Rule 1.17;

Lesbian – means … oh wait, not defined, see Rule 1.14;

Bisexual – means … not defined.

In order to retain eligibility in the NAGAAA no team can have more than 2 heterosexual players on their roster (Rule 70.5) and all teams must identify their heterosexual players in a roster submitted to the Assistant Commissioner of the NAGAAA. (Rule 5.01 (B)(3)(E)(iii).

Well, these rules forecast a homosexual train wreck – and that’s exactly what has happened.  The NAGAAA has been sued by the National Center for Lesbian Rights for disqualifying a team – a team from San Francisco no less – that was charged mid-way through the championship game of the Gay Softball World Series by the opposing team of having too many heterosexuals on their roster. Play was stopped several times, and after losing the game, the team that was alleged not to be gay enough had to produce the suspect team members and subject them to an ad hoc sexual orientation interrogation.

The facts alleged in the NCLR complaint are too horrible to make up.  The “suspect players” were called into a conference room after the game for an interrogation in front of the NAGAAA Protest Committee and a number of other people where they were asked about their “predominant sexual interests.” NAGAAA officials read definitions of “heterosexual” and “gay” and asked which word applied to them. When some of the players answered both, an official allegedly told him, “This is the Gay World Series, not the Bisexual World Series.” In the end, the Committee “ruled” and found that that three of the “suspect players” were “not gay” and therefore disqualified the San Francisco team.  If this weren’t bad enough, all of the players found to be “not gay” were men of color, while all of the interrogators were white.

Read the NCLR complaint., and the Advocate’s coverage.  It rehearses such a horrible event in the name of “gay safety” and “solidarity.”

Don’t get me wrong.  I get the need for safe space for lgbt, well, in this case lg people – gay and lesbian bars, community centers, maybe even the Rosie O’Donnell cruises (well, that may be a bridge too far).  But quotas, straight- and bi-baiting, and public humiliation of those who are thought to have “snuck in” or might be “passing” as gay thereby justifying an interrogation of their homo bona fides?  Please, no.  The inventory of what’s wrong with this is almost too painful and obvious to enumerate.   The league demands that each team identify their heterosexual players by name before they can play in the World Series, and this implies that they’ve “checked out” the orientation of everyone on the team, and that each player’s orientation is a static fact about themselves that can be represented accurately in a checked box on a form.  Drug testing is bad enough, but orientation-testing?  What criteria should apply in determining a person’s sexual orientation (do you have track lighting in your apartment, have a lot of Broadway musicals on your iPod, think that girls are yucky, throw like a girl …)?

Then there’s the race component here.  The facts in the complaint – at this point unproven, but merely alleged – draw a picture such that men of color have a higher burden of proving their “real” homosexuality than do white men.  It’s not like the gay community hasn’t struggled for years with segregation and a reputation as a white movement.  NAGAAA’s investigation of the sexual orientation of players of color reinforces terrible stereotypes about black men being on the “down low” and echos the ways in which black men’s sexuality has been spectacularized historically.  For thoughtful discussions of both, see Russell Robinson’s recent article on the down low, and Anthony Farley’s Black Body as Fetish Object.


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