Shower arguments: the silliness is almost overBottom Highlights, Politically Aware Thursday, August 28th, 2014
Commentary: Politically Aware
Sometime Saturday Michael Sam will find out if he is part of the St. Louis Rams’ 53-man roster, their practice squad, or cut. As the first openly gay player on an NFL team, his fate will be news.
His shower habits are not news. Nor is the opinion of an unidentified teammate on said shower habits, no matter what ESPN thought. (They have apologized for the story.)
I understand the frustration of sporting news outlets who were hoping for an endless stream of gay meets NFL stories. After a brief kerfuffle about a reality series, Sam has largely broken the news cycle by focusing on making the team, which is, somewhat ironically, exactly what most sports pundits recommended. Sam’s most recent newsworthy action was mocking Cleveland Quarterback Johnny Manziel after sacking him, showing that gay players can equal straight ones as highlight reel seeking poor sports.
If Sam refuses to be the story, his teammates are a natural place to look for one. A fellow Ram going on record with his own discomfort about showering with Sam would have been news. So would a well sourced report that Sam routinely showers after all of the other players, particularly if he is doing so at the Rams request. Instead, what ESPN reported was a unnamed player saying that “Sam is respecting our space,” apparently by waiting to take a shower, while two teammates, Kendell Langford and Alec Ogletree, were worth naming for noticing no such thing and explaining why players might take showers at different times.
All of which underscores the fact that frantic concern about sharing a bathroom is the “jump the shark moment” of LGBT equality debates. From the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) to the transgender protections of California’s School Success and Opportunity Act, the last argument of the opposition has been “But where will they pee?” (Or, in this case, shower.)
I’ve always been somewhat confused by these arguments for two reasons. First, what is happening in their bathrooms? I’m in the bathroom because I need to clean up, or to take care of some physiologic business and then clean up. I, like most people, consider staring at strangers at the toilet, urinal, or shower to be rude and somewhat disturbing regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Second, what is the goal of bathroom law? If a straight man is afraid of being stared at by someone attracted to him, it makes sense to keep the gay men out. But he should be fine sharing a bathroom with lesbians and female to male transgender people (who wouldn’t be interested in him unless they are also gay). If his fear is being confronted by genitalia that is not his own, gay men should be fine, and he would need to know where transgender people were in transition before asking them to leave. Or he could just keep his eyes to himself in the bathroom. If he thinks every combination of straight/gay/lesbian/bisexual, cis/trans, and male/female needs a unique space, we’re going to need a lot of bathrooms. Or just a few gender neutral ones, another reason this is all increasingly foolish.
On hearing the “coverage” of Michael Sam’s alleged shower habits, teammate Chris Love Tweeted “Dear ESPN, Everyone but you is over it.” If that were true, the unnamed teammate wouldn’t have given the quote. But the fact that we’re down to shower arguments means the silliness is almost over and Sam can continue to focus on more important things. Hopefully ESPN will as well.
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