(Salon) -- About four years before I came out as queer, a high school teacher asked our class how many of us would be comfortable changing in front of a gay person. I don’t think anyone raised their hand. I’m sure I didn’t.
That squirmy high school moment came to mind when I saw ESPN analyst and ex-NFL player and coach Herm Edwards, in response to Michael Sam’s coming out, compare him to “a player that has some issues, off the field issues” who’s “bringing baggage into your locker room.”
I’m sure Edwards would insist he’s no bigot, just as everybody in America insists they’re no bigot. But Edwards’ warning, if inartfully composed, offers an unintentionally elegant reminder of how heterosexism asserts and sustains itself. Not just through the bald fear and disgust we most often call homophobia (well-captured in the fear of predatory homosexuals invading the shower, as if straight bros’ locker room interactions were free of sexual surveillance, anxiety, or bullying). But also through the insistence that anything other than normative heterosexuality is an issue, an event (maybe even an aggression), while straightness is unremarkable and un-remarked-upon. It’s called “straight” for a reason.
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