Oh, Hell No: On the Exploitation of LGBTQ Athletes

Update: The editors of The Daily Beast have submitted a statement, saying, “We apologize for potentially jeopardizing [the athletes] safety in any way. As a result, we have removed all descriptions of the men and women’s profiles that we previously described.”

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any bleaker than Donald Trump saying Obama and Hillary are co-founders of ISIS (seriously: he said that), we woke up this morning to a new level of bullshit.

For reasons I haven’t begun to understand (just kidding: #clicks #traffic), The Daily Beast published a piece by a straight journalist who went on Grindr and a series of other dating/hook-up apps to prove that young athletes in the Olympic Village are indeed — gasp! — having sex.

And okay, sure, whatever. That story is boring and that angle is boring and obviously they’re all having sex, because why wouldn’t they. These people are in the prime of their lives. But on top of the seriously sixties angle of “young humans hooking up” the writer went a bit deeper. As in: he basically outed queer athletes for the sake of forwarding his bullshit narrative.

This is how it played out: dude set out to see if he, an “average” guy, could score some dates with queer men and then — after laying out the nonsense angle — proceeded to list their sports, tell us that one hailed from a notoriously homophobic country, and then described another as being clad in his official Canadian wear. So: he basically told us who they were without telling us their names.

After, to try and distance himself from taking any real responsibility, the author then assured us that when asked about who he was, he made it clear he was a family man (married, with kids), so that he wasn’t lying to anybody. So that we would still think he wasn’t the bad guy.

And okay, sure. I’m sure he’s not “bad.” I’m sure he got carried away with the idea of an #angle and forgot that to be a member of the LGBTQ community is a huge-ass risk in much of the world. (Because of course he did: he’s a straight man. It’s easy to forget fear when you’ve never had to experience that side of it.) But here’s what he was doing:

1) By writing the piece, the author exploited queer men to tell a story we’ve heard a million times (see: that people have sex, congratulations), and

2) By doing that, he put those men at risk.

As fun as it is to believe that we’re living in a progressive, safe, and understanding world, we are not. By writing this piece, the men written about could actually die. As mentioned, the author himself acknowledged that one of the athletes he could’ve hooked up with was from a country that was notoriously homophobic. And while he may think he was being generous with hiding identity, anybody familiar with the process of elimination could put two and two together and emerge with a likely accurate hypothesis. Which also means the men he mentioned are now at risk. This person put queer men’s lives in danger because he wanted a story. And his story wasn’t even good: it was literally, “Olympic athletes are using Grindr.”

Well no fucking shit.

What makes me angry — on top of a person and publication putting a byline over the lives of human beings — is that this was supposed to entice us. Throughout the pitching, editing, and publishing process, The Daily Beast believed we’d take the bait; that we’d see “I Got Three Grindr Dates” and click maniacally, hoping we’d find out who and why and when. It’s a puff piece. And it’s offensive. And also, how dare this straight man capitalize on the lives of LGBTQ people — especially when he goes on to flip his first person perspective to “a source told me they saw two athletes hooking up behind a stage in the Olympic village.” And? Are you bothered?

Queer people are not bait. They are not entertainment. They are not a straight person’s gateway into Some Cool Story. To write about their sex lives as a “can you believe it?!” blog post not just undermines the experience of coming out and living as a queer person, but it creates an “us vs. them” angle that perpetuates the ease in which homophobic takes shape. It’s impossible to reach equality when we’re still being baited with “guess who’s gay!” angle. Plus, it’s not up to us to guess. It is not up to us to do anything but sit down and be fucking cool about a person’s sexuality — unless we’re standing up to say, “Fucking fix your shit, Daily Beast.” (Among other things.)

It makes me angry to think we’re still expected to swallow the shit that pieces like this are shovelling. And it makes me scared to think that the athletes who were written about — people who have worked so fucking hard to make it to Rio and who deserve to have all the fun in the world — are now in actual danger because some dude wanted to seem edgy. The best case scenario is that The Daily Beast removes the piece, it learns from its mistakes, and everyone tries to do better. The worst? Honestly, I don’t want to think about it.

Tags: Anne T. Donahue

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