It all starts with a photograph.
In April, Aussie Rules Football player Jason Akermanis created a firestorm when he told gay players to stay in the closet,
that football wasn’t ready for them. Akermanis maintained gay team members would make the other players
uncomfortable in the showers, in the locker room and in general. In fact, Akermanis claimed it was the very
homoerotic nature of sports camaraderie that would make gay players unwelcome:
"In an athletic environment the
rules are different from the cultural rules for men."
"Never in a mall will you see two
straight men hugging, ass slapping and jumping around like kids after an
"Locker room nudity and homoerotic
activities are normal inside footy clubs."
Obviously, Akermanis never counted on Australian rugby player Nick Youngquest and out rugby hero Gareth Thomas to make him look both right (sort of) and foolish. At least in
the virtual lockerroom that is Twitter.
On Tuesday Gareth and Nick started teasing each
other via tweets, and some of it went further than ass slapping. But here is the shocker – no one seems to have been
bothered in the least. Just a lot of camaraderie inside a digital locker room that almost certainly would extend into the real world without incident. At least for men who have developed mentally past the age of sixteen.
Note for non-Twitter readers: Twitter conversations are notoriously hard to decipher. In the exchange below, Gareth is often referred to as “alf” or “alfie,” and to help distinguish who’s speaking I’ve added the speaker’s picture from their Twitter profile for each tweet.
It all started when Gareth wanted a new picture for Twitter.
Things took a turn for the personal next. I admit to having no idea how this comes up in conversation in the real world, but evidently it did. Lots of things come up when guys start ribbing each other.
And emphasizes the importance of at least some minimal maintenance.
The conversation then moves back to the locker room. The fact that one of them is gay isn’t an obstacle, instead it’s just incorporated into the trash talking – and not in a bad way. It’s just yet another chink in the armor of your mate that you might exploit to score points. Some animals charge into each other with antlers – humans trash talk.
Still, they’re joking about Gareth checking Nick out, and it’s just that, another joke.
Despite the obvious implications of how revealing locker room pictures could be, or that they could be pictured together and people might think something of it, they still egg each other on about who’s brave enough.
Gentlemen, I’d like to remind you that it’s not polite to tease unless you intend to follow thru.
Gareth decides to up the ante all the way, to the ultimate locker room diss – he goes for Nick’s sexuality.
And Nick wins the prize for a secure alpha male.
A less enlightened professional athlete like Jason Akermanis would claim that a good-natured exchange like the one above couldn’t happen with an openly gay team member involved. For him, homosexuals in the locker room simply ruins homoeroticism for everyone else!
But Youngquest and Thomas prove Akermanis wrong here (along with rugby players Vince Mellars and Luke Dyer who also jumped into this good-natured ribbing via Twitter). Nobody freaked out because the locker room banter included a gay athlete.
In fact, the conversation included planned nudity (with pictures!), and the very homoeroticism that Akermanis says exists in a locker room. In fact, it went out of its way to create it between opponents who respect each other as players and as human beings. And unlike in Akermanis’ world, no one grabbed their towels and walked out of the room.
Are things different because this conversation took place in the UK? If so, it would probably be news to Aussie Youngquest or Kiwi Vince Mellars. The problems lie not with gay and straight, or British and Australian, but rather with a few folks like Akermanis who see the world changing around them and try and apply the brakes.