“Wait, who are the Rangers playing?” I asked my friend Michelle as we were walking into Madison Square Garden a few weeks ago.

“The Buins. The Boston Bruins,” Michelle replied.

Needless to say, I am not an avid fan of sports, but as I hail from Buffalo, it seems as if the sports mentality was embedded into my existence as a kid. I started little loop football at five-years-old and played continuously through my senior year of high school. As I left for college, I had close to 14 years of football under my belt, in addition to various years of wrestling, lacrosse, and track and field.

Growing up in the “mans” world of competitive sports, of course gay slurs were common. Team members shouted, “Stop throwing like a pansy” to the star quarterback and “Stop playing like a faggot” to the teammate who missed a block. I didn’t come out of the closet until the start of my freshman year of college; which now, looking back, I think was closely related to my active participation in sports.

As I watched the New York Rangers face the Boston Bruins, it was interesting to immerse myself in the very macho section we were sitting in. Every so often, a guy in our area would casually say something along the lines of, “Jeez, he’s playing like a faggot out there” or “What a faggot move.”

The use of the word is slowly dying out, I hope, as the stereotypes of gay men are proven wrong.  During a happy hour with a friend and her coworkers this past week, I was in a conversation with a guy and we were talking about our jobs as we are both in marketing. When I informed him that my company markets to the LGBT community and we work very closely with liquor and beer companies, he asked, “Wait, do a lot of gay men drink beer? Don’t they just drink girly drinks?”

I then took the opportunity to inform him that yes, gay men drink beer and yes, gay men are masculine, and yes, gay men are athletes. We spent the next half hour talking about the gay community, his views, and I answered some his questions. When I asked him why he never had this type of conversation before, he told me that as a straight male, he never really had too much interaction with gay friends and further, he didn’t know what was appropriate to ask.

It’s the year 2012; I assume the first professional male athlete will come out of the closet over the next few years. Until then, the United States will slowly evolve to be inclusive to those in the LGBT community, but with sports, it may just take a little more time.

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