by Coach Eric Gumby Anderson MA, MA, Ph.D. (cand.)
Note: this story is told through Coach Gumby, and originally appeared in the Orange County Blade in August of 1999. Also the photo is not a photo of the football player.
I will give no name. I will give no school. I will not even write this myself. I am too closeted, too afraid. I am a high school football player. I am big. I am strong. And I am very good at what I do. If you follow the sport, you know me. Iím also living proof that even football players are gay. I am living proof of how homophobic high school football truly is. It is these reasons I gave Coach Gumby permission to write my story, out of hope that just one other football player will somehow read it, and know that you are not alone. I am here too.
Iíve always known I liked guys. And I never liked sports. But I had no choice. I have to like girls, and I have to love football. I was, as so many of my friends were, pushed into football by my father. A father who cared very much that his son grew to be powerful, strong, and straight. I had little choice in the matter. I have to play ball. I have to have women.
High school football is all about heterosexuality, manliness, and toughness; for a gay guy itís a true hell on earth. The homophobia is appalling. My coaches try to motivate their players to hit harder, crunch more, or throw farther all by calling us fags. If they cop out early, they are surely criticized as being gay. My teammates use "fag" as a daily and repetitive insult. They call all the guys fags. But if they suspect one of them really is Ė it would surely mean physical brutality. I must therefore prove I am straight. I have to.
I have to date girls. Perhaps you donít understand Ė I have to date. I need to date and worse yet, I need to exploit the details of my dates. I have to have sex with a girl. Itís the highest point scorer in proving youíre not gay Ė even if you are. I used her, I told her I loved her, just to protect myself Ė to pass. I will have to do it again soon too.
Iím in love with my best friend. Iíve always loved my best friends. But I canít tell him. Iím attracted to my teammates. I avoid befriending the good-looking ones so that I wonít slip up and show my true feelings. If I did, Iíd lose everything. My respect, my friends, and my parents' love.
I have to make fun of the other athletes, the runners, swimmers and wrestlers. I have to call them fags, or fear being called one myself. I have even resorted to verbal gay bashing. You donít understand Ė I have to. Iím a hypocrite, and I know it. I have to be.
I know of three gay people on the Internet. Iím too afraid to meet more than that. Iím too afraid to meet them in person. Iím too afraid to give my real name or school. I never tell them Iím a football player. I hide everything. I have to.
I have to play college ball. I have to hide my sexuality there too. If I donít, I will surely lose my parentís love, my parentís respect, and my parentís funding.
I lie on my bed and cry at night. I pray for an answer but there is none. Iím gay. Iím a football player. I have parents who are proud of me. I have friends. I have respect. I seem to have it all. But in reality, I have nothing. And I have no peace.
And you know what? In reality, I know I donít really have to hide. Part of me revels in seeing the look on my dadís face when I tell him that all along, his star son, the famed football player, is also gay. I look forward to meeting guys, having sex, and just being who nature intended me to be.
I seem to be able to take the hardest of hits, or the longest hell week. No doubt Iím tough. Real tough. But inside, Iím mush. Iím scared and afraid. I have to be. Iím gay and Iím a football player.
(C) 2002 Coach Gumby; All Rights Reserved. ---------------------------------------------------
Coach Eric Gumby Anderson
Coach Eric "Gumby" Anderson has a Bachelor's in Health Science, a Masters in Sport Psychology, a Masters in Sociology, and is currently working on a Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of California Irvine, where he teaches the sociology of sport, men and masculinities, small group behaviors, and men in society. He also teaches sport psychology and coaching psychology at Cal State University Long Beach. He researches issues relating to sport, gay athletes, Native American athletes, and contemporary masculinities.
Gumby coached distance runners at Huntington Beach High school for 12 years before moving on to coach at Saddleback Community College for four years, and Irvine Valley College for a year. He currently works with individual athletes from weekend joggers to world class runners. In 1993 he came out of the closet at the world's first openly gay high school or collegiate coach (as far as we know) and wrote an autobiography about the experience.
Coach Gumby has authored three books: Trailblazing: America's First Openly Gay Track Coach; Training Games: Coaching Runner's Creatively; and The Runner's Doctrine. He also serves as a Sport Psychology consultant, motivational speaker and lecturer, and he addresses homophobia and athletics as a consultant for NCAA division 1 universities.
As an activist CoachGumby co-founded a chapter of GLSEN, The Gay, Lesbian, Straight Educators Network in Orange County and co-founded a chapter of Front Runners Orange County. He also publishes a gay and lesbian electronic newsletter for gay youths in Southern California called The GumbyGazete. Coach Gumby lives in Southern California with his partner Grant Tyler Peterson since 1997. Together they have a dog named "Strider" love to attend theater, to travel, and occasionally to even run together.