This past Friday night, my partner Keith, 3 dear friends and I attended a film festival in Boulder, Colorado. That night, they were showing two documentaries. One very short piece on Harvey Milk, and the other on homophobia in the women’s NCAA world. The title of that documentary was “Training Rules”. It was very powerful, moving, and downright depressing . That homophobia in collegiate sports still exists is appalling, however to be so blatant is much more to the core of it’s evil. The documentary focuses on the long-time women’s basketball coach at Penn State, Rene Portland. Coach Portland took her homophobia to unprecedented heights by threatening the loss of scholarships and destroy the chance for young women to reach their potential as players and as human beings!
While watching this film, I thought of my own situation back in the 70’s and 80’s. How depressed, and lonely I was during my time as an umpire. How not being true to myself, and living a lie made me depressed and downright miserable. In some way, I had a connection to these young women that were portrayed in the documentary. The oppression, they had to deal with, was in fact the same as mine. How awful it was for them to deal with this in the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and into the 21st century, but that it still continues today is the real issue. When will it ever stop!!
The letter below is just another example of what oppression does to the human spirit! It broke my heart when I received it, and still does when I reread it today. I know it will touch yours!! Harvey Milk said “We gotta give’m hope! We gotta give’m hope!” By sharing these letters, I am trying to give those who read them hope!!
Thanks for reading, and remember,
Never Strike Out!
I was the kid who came up to you a couple of minutes after your lecture
tonight. I delayed my travels up front because I was with my best friend, my best
friend who knows nothing of my secret and thus very little about me and the
struggles I face daily. I told him I was going to the bathroom and that I would see
him tomorrow, and then I proceeded around the corner and back into the lecture
hall. I approached you because I wanted to tell you how much that hour
meant to me, how important it was to know that these feelings of total isolation,
loneliness, and yearning are not unusual, but instead very common. I
wanted to say some things to your face, but I could not for fear that I would
break down. So I casually asked for your website, shook your hand, and left.
Tonight you spoke of a box, a dark hole into which no one would
voluntarily descend. I have put myself in that box, and yes, I have slammed the lid
shut so that I won’t expose myself to the pain and alienation others feel by
openly accepting themselves; I’ve secured that lid so that I won’t be perceived as
weak, unmasculine, and diseased. Even here, on a liberal college campus,
I cannot take that initial step toward self-acceptance and self-realization.
I’ve truly learned that it’s terrifying step to take where ever you go. And
though I have begun the process at home and encountered a great deal of support, I
still live a different life here. My best friend sat two seats down from me
tonight. He came because, like me, he loves baseball. Earlier today he told me he
wanted to go hear that talk by “the gay umpire” and qualified his
statement by assuring me that his desire to go stemmed solely from his love of the
game. So tonight, as tears swelled up in my eyes and I fought hard to choke them
back, I hope that he has learned something about the world in which he lives, that
perhaps he will support me when I finally decide to come out of the hole I
have dug for myself. I know what it’s like to think that there is no way out,
I know hopelessness and the emotion associated with believing that ending it is
the only option. But tonight, for some reason, I feel that I have other
options. I think I can finally be honest with myself and others, embrace something I’ve
spent so long trying to suppress. Perhaps these feelings are only
temporary, a short-lived empowerment, or perhaps these feelings are a sign that
something radical has changed inside of me. I know you get a lot of these letters,
and I don’t expect you to respond, but I wanted you to know that what you’re
doing is enormously important. If you only touched me tonight, then you have
succeeded. You’ve given me enormous courage to proceed and I will be forever
grateful that you shared your story. Thank you so much and I wish you all the best.