The Right to the Closet

Aker, illness pouffes and the right to closet –Helen Razer – ABC Online – May, 2010

I’ve long had a soft spot for Jason Akermanis. This affection has two central motives. First, his head was choreographed by Bob Fosse. That this on-baller could kick so forcefully with hair gayer than a handbag full of rainbows is testament to his strength.

Second, he once threatened to switch codes to Rugby Union if his team ever signed Wayne Carey. If you’re unfamiliar with the Soap of AFL, Carey is to the game as Izzy Hoyland was to Ramsay Street. This is to say, he is, in the view of many, vile, vicious and morally insolvent.

But today, it seems, that’s Akermanis’ role.

In the case you hadn’t heard, the Bulldog penned an Op Ed on homophobia this week for Melbourne’s Herald Sun. Aside from the fact the guy is putting us other columnists out of work, I had no problem with the piece at all.

Tell me I’m not the only one.

The past few days have seen dump-trucks of scorn upturned on Aker’s Fosse head. Retired Olympic swimmer Daniel Kowalski was “disappointed”, “mad” and “angry”. Former League star Ian Roberts called the player “knuckleheaded”. Naturally, famous litigant Gary Burns will submit a complaint to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission and a chocolate box of Career Homosexuals are holding forth in press. The man has been pilloried for daring to utter the truth. To wit, loads of football players are homophobic.

Read the piece. The most offensive thing the guy says is that some people don’t like pouffes. Really? This just in: snow is cold, marriage is difficult and Nick Riewoldt’s hammy needs fixing. Describing the conditions of prejudice is not tantamount to prejudice. If it is, then, please, won’t someone throw all the great feminist scholars in gaol?

Of course, Aker’s few hundred words of hubris can hardly be compared to de Beauvoir. But, they did get people talking about prejudice. And, a lot more effectively than even the most sincere anti-homophobic pamphlet distributed by the AFL.

Akermanis said that he thought it wasn’t a good idea for players to “come out” due to the storm of publicity such an act would brew. I fail to see why this statement is so shocking.

It is broadly assumed that open declaration of homosexuality by public figures is terribly important. We badger queers to emerge from their burrows in the belief that a sexual life lived on the surface will end all harm.

The holes in this logic have always driven me potty. Let me try to explain its internal collapse: in order to improve a world that defines people in the terms of their sexual orientation, we really need more people to define their sexual orientation.

It’s been years since I bothered trying to define my own sexual orientation. Or David Campbell’s or Lady GaGa’s or anybody else’s for that matter. Unless we’re trying to sleep together, I really don’t see the point.

Speaking from a personal experience, as many weighing in on this matter have, it’s exhausting being defined in the terms of one’s sexuality. And this is how one is explicitly defined after the disclosure, “I’m gay” or, worse, “I’m bisexual”. Try it as an experiment in your workplace this afternoon. You will be treated as a hyper-sexual peril who cannot be trusted with anything including the stationery supplies. It’s exhausting.

It’s particularly exhausting, I imagine, for celebrities who are charged with the responsibility of saving teens from suicide.

In pushing these definitions, into which I constantly refuse to fall, and in forcing these actions of “openness”, we may, in fact, be recreating the conditions that led to homophobia in the first place. To wit: by defining it.

We tend to forget that “Homosexuality” has only been codified for about as long as the AFL. In the late 19th century, it was recognised then criminalised then medicalised. When we say “I’m gay” we are uttering a history of modern felony and disease. When we say, “It’s really none of your business” we are certainly not changing the world. But nor are we duplicating the Victorian edicts that led sexuality from a vague spectrum into clear-cut club colours.

As Akermanis says, “homoerotic activities are normal”. They need not be defined.

I’ve had a gutful of definitions. I’ve had a gutful of gay pride. I’ve had a gutful of well-intentioned “progressives” seizing on statements such as this to prove that homophobia is alive and well; when, in fact, that’s really what Aker was saying.

We should not quash debate, nor the subtext of Aker’s statements which was, after all, “there’s an enormous number of pouffes in the AFL”, by calling the guy a dumb homophobe.

I don’t doubt that Aker’s reasons for writing were self-seeking. As twilight claims his Cabaret hair and career, he’s probably looking for a full time gig on dodgy AM radio. His sub-edited straight-talk will probably serve him to that end. This is not to say, however, that his words have not served a higher civic purpose. Viz. our sexual orientation should merit no mention at all before bedtime.

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