I’m not surprised that there are gay athletes, but I am
surprised at the fact that they are closet gays.

Personally, I had my first brush with homosexuality last year
when I met my Resident Advisor. Walking down the halls, you can
usually see him making his rounds with his clipboard and bright
smile, always ready with a hug. He’s exactly like every other
RA, except for the sole difference that he isn’t
straight.

In fact, he is a cross-dresser. My first week at UCLA, he came
knocking at my door asking for my roommate to help him do his
eyebrows. I ended up doing them for him and even helping him get
ready for the party he was going to. At the time, I did not see it
as a big deal ““ everyone around me was quite accepting and
did not treat him any differently. I guess this reaction also
stemmed from the fact that he didn’t expect to be treated any
differently. He expected us to accept him just the way he was
““ his homosexuality was just a facet of his identity. He is
exactly like any of us, only gay.

Coming from a society where there are no
“out-of-the-closet” or even “in-the-closet”
gays, I based all my judgment on my first experiences at UCLA.
While growing up in Saudi Arabia, I never met a gay person, so
literally my only experience with them, prior to UCLA, was the
media ““ TV shows like “Will and Grace” and
movies. From other people’s reactions, I came to the
conclusion that yes, homosexuality is just a part of a
person’s identity, and American society accepts this. And so
should I.

Quite honestly, I did bond with my RA during our “getting
pretty before parties” experiences. We did the whole deal:
makeup, picking out outfits, hair, pictures. We just went to
different parties. I loved it, and found it absolutely fascinating.
And especially after talking to him, I realized that for him,
coming to grips with his sexuality was quite similar to my own
struggles with identity, peer-pressure and social drama.

He told me about how when he first told his friends about his
homosexuality, they were surprised ““ it took time to let it
sink in. But in the end they did have to accept that this was a
part of his identity; he hadn’t changed in any way, he had
just opened up. There really was no real difference. Again,
homosexuality is just another idea that some individuals in society
have misconstrued to mammoth proportions.

But what is even more pathetic, from my viewpoint, is the fact
that gays, who are perfectly normal in every way and no different
from everyone else, decide to hide this aspect (yes, sexuality is
merely a figment of your individuality ““ I’m sorry, but
the fact that you’re straight or gay is not the beginning or
the end of your identity) of themselves. As an outsider, this is
exactly how I see it. The entire situation is just so absolutely
ridiculous.

But I honestly do want to know: Why is this such a big deal? If
you weren’t an athlete, would you then come out of your
closet? There are always going to be teachers, coaches, friends and
acquaintances who might not be too tolerant or open-minded. But
that’s just life. True, this is an issue, but definitely not
a new one. Unfortunately, homosexuality has blown up into this
controversy just because of the media, the government and
society.

Do these athletes truly feel that there is some kind of
relationship or correlation between their sexuality and
performance? I’m pretty sure they know there isn’t, but
if they can’t come to grips with this fact, they can’t
expect their coach and teammates to accept it either. If it’s
ostracism they fear, then I guess it might help to let them know
that they’ll face it whether they’re gay or
straight.

Society is known for creating these lines and distinctions
solely for the purpose of discrimination. It is intrinsic to human
nature. But the saddest part in this entire “absurd”
scenario is the role the American government has decided to play. I
guess the government still has not realized that people can have a
happy marriage whether or not they’re gay or straight, and
this happiness is definitely not incumbent on what the government
believes to be “morally” right or wrong.

Now that I think of it, the Bush administration is no different
from the Saudi Arabian monarchy regarding this issue. Both
governments harbor intolerance towards homosexuality, which stems
from some form of religious teachings.

But at least in Saudi Arabia, you don’t have a choice, so
gay marriage ““ actually, gay anything ““ is out of the
question. You pretty much have no hope. But over here, you’re
allowed to be openly gay up until the question of marriage arises.
Basically, you’re allowed to be yourself throughout your
life, but when it’s your turn to be the “happiest man
in the world”, you’re just not allowed to.

I honestly don’t see much of a difference between the two
scenarios. In fact, sometimes I wonder which one’s worse.

If you’re a gay athlete and want to come out of your
closet, e-mail Saxena at ssaxena@media.ucla.edu.