The Wheel and Axle

Dive In The Pool

by on Jul.17, 2016, under My Life, Queer, Travel & Culture

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Photo credits: Gay Times

Thank you, Gay Times, for this wonderful feature on LGBT athletes heading over to Rio for the 2016 Olympics. This year, we apparently have a record number of LGBT participants in the event.

Or perhaps, this might just be a year where we have a record number of out and proud participants, for I cannot imagine all prior events have had no (secretly) LGBTs amongst the athletes.

And so this year still marks a pretty good milestone for our community – for now we are diving headfirst into the pool outly and proudly without qualms.

See, here’s an unfortunate reality: LGBTs folks, gay men in particularly, have been stereotyped as nancies who have no athletic bones in their body whatsoever, except for sports like volleyball or gymnastics or – the horror! – gymnastics. It seems to threaten the masculinity of some straight men when they find out that  the awkward limp-wristed sissy can actually outrun him or could shoot more three-point shots in a span of two minutes.

Whilst I myself was really bad at basketball (except I could do a few fairly good free throws every now and then), I have to admit that I only got pretty good in volleyball when I started seriously playing in high school. Not as good as some of my friends, of course – they who could decapitate you with a well-placed spike. Nevertheless, I was good enough to play for my class during sportsfests.

It wasn’t always so. In elementary, I was a nancy who had almost no athletic bone in his body except for playing shato or agawan base, if those counted. I could not understand certain aspects of basketball, and while I wanted to play a lot more softball, the damned bat rarely cooperated with me.

Yes, I was a stereotype.

Me on a Balance Beam

Nonetheless, I was a competent swimmer, but only because my parents insisted we learn how to swim at the age of five, mostly for survival reasons as opposed to physical fitness. My dad, in particular, loved to take us to the beach, and I suppose it was not in his best interest to just leave us out at sea without any skills whatsoever.

I was also surprisingly adept at soccer. Not very good, mind you, but I surprised myself in fourth grade intramurals, wherein our section was grouped into four skill levels for each academic quarter’s sport: A, B, C, and D. The best skilled in a given sport were Group D, while those who have the dexterity of a marble statue would be Group A. In almost all quarters, I was Group A – volleyball (I only got significantly better in high school when I came out and started playing with the gays), basketball, baseball. It was only in soccer where I was deemed good enough to be… watch out for it… Group B!

I was so proud.

Yes, I was pathetic.

By college, aside from volleyball and swimming, I started enjoying table tennis. I also joined and loved the occasional soccer game, usually for org events, but I was just a so-so average player, and it wasn’t something I was able to really hone even if I really wanted to. Unlike volleyball where you can find a small space and start lobbying a ball here and there with one or two friends whenever you felt like it, soccer required more space and planning. That, and actual soccer-interested friends, of which I had none.

But can you really blame us for the interest?

But can you really blame us for the interest?

The only soccer-related thing we were all commonly interested in was David Beckham.

Of course, nowadays, almost twenty years after college and with the hustle and bustle of work, the only sport I regularly get is the walk from the door to the sidewalk as I wait for my Uber ride.

Still, when opportunity knocks, I make sure to join any volleyball game I could, and I still swim on vacations. I’ve enjoyed some bowling, too, because that’s just very #titasofmanila, and you can never be enough of a #titasofmanila.

Now, I might never become the next Roger Federer Anna Kournikova, but I like to think that I’ve at least tried to break the stereotype of gay men being disinterested in any form of physical activity beyond the bedroom or the gym. Perhaps “tried” is not even the right word, for I never woke up one day and just consciously thought to myself, “Let me prove those naysayers wrong.” I just started to enjoy some sports as I grew older.

Anyone want to dive in?

But there are a lot of gay men who truly have made sports their lives, and I salute them for being in a space where gay men have traditionally been shunned or laughed at.

And now, as social norms evolve, LGBT athletes have had minimal problems being more open as they compete and even win in high profile sporting events.

And with this year’s Rio Olympics having a record number of LGBT participants, more than ever we see that the LGBT community is a powerful and diverse community that can and do live in the exact same space as the straights. That, and we are now less afraid to show it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, let me find myself some Scandinavian sprinters.

And Tom Daley. You can never have enough diving with Tom Daley.

Let’s get soaking wet.

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