Gay Diver Makes a Splash

Cover picture from the gay magazine The Advocate of Matthew Mitcham

Cover picture from the gay magazine The Advocate of Matthew Mitcham

Ok, ok, ok, so I *haven’t* actually seen this headline in a tabloid of late, but given all the kerfuffle that my compatriot Matthew Mitcham’s gold medal in the 10 metre diving event has caused, I might well have. There’s a few stories to watch and sort through (and don’t give up until you’ve taken The Quiz, a special feature of today’s post, below the fold.)

Basic story 1: Australian Matthew Mitcham clinched the gold medal in the 10 metre dive with his final dive of the day, knocking off Chinese favourite Zhou Luxin by just under 5 points overall. Mitcham was the only non-Chinese athlete to score a gold in the diving, and also received the hightest score EVER for a diver in this event. Yay Matt!

Basic story 2: Matthew Mitcham, who won a gold medal in something watery, was the only openly gay male athlete at the Beijing Olympics. Of the roughly 11 000 athletes competing, 10 openly lesbian women have been identified (by strategically placed spies?). If at least half the athletes competing were men, that makes calculating the percentage of openly gay male athletes something that even I can calculate: 1 in 5500. (Women: 1 in 550). Let’s stick our necks out, and hazard a guess: that’s significantly lower than the base rate of openly gay people in the rest of society. Every society. Yay … society?

Basic story 3: NBC and other major US networks ignored Basic Story 2 in covering Basic Story 1. Sports and sexual orientation are just separate things, and they were just interested in covering sports. Yay, self-deception!

Basic Story 4: Basic Story 2 is of much more interest to many people than Basic Story 1. As is the ambivalence that Basic Story 2 creates in many people who share that interest. (And as conveyed by my sorry attempt at a punchline in Basic Story 2.) Three cheers for Matthew on all fronts, but really, which century are we living in? In addition, people who get worked up about Basic Story 3 should really get Out more.

Time to round off with some links, The Quiz, and nice video interview with Mitcham.

First the links: to that bastion of progressiveness, Fox Sports, running with Basic Story 1, and exemplifying Basic Story 3;to Outsports running with Basic Story 2, and exemplifying bits of Basic Story 4; and to the Wikipedia article on Mitcham

And, The Quiz, just to see if you’ve been paying attention. (Prizes for correct answers.) From all this we should conclude:

(a) there just aren’t many gay people interested in sports; it must be in the genes.
(b) gay athletes just aren’t being counted properly, either by themselves or by others.
(c) diving makes people happy.
(c) what the hell about straight athletes, left out of things yet again?

And, to round off, the nice interview: check it all out, but at least the first 30 seconds if you’re REALLY impatient.

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