By now, you’ve likely heard about Thom Brennaman’s “accident.” He said something homophobic on a hot mic. It went on the air at a baseball game. And, happily, there were consequences for him. He’s been suspended, is my understanding. And the Reds put out an almost-decent apology, even.
I say “almost decent” because if they’d dropped everything after the word “sorry” they’d have been fine. Instead, they added that “anyone who has been offended” and… Well. More on that in a second.
Now, you all know how much I follow baseball (not at all) and you all know how much I care about Thom Brennaman (I’d never heard of this man until this morning), but here’s the thing about Thom Brennaman that I want to explain for my non-queer readers: this moment isn’t just what he said, or how he got caught, or whether or not that’s the kind of person he is, or if he deserves the kind of censure he’ll get.
The discourse will be all about that, though. Promise.
But I’m here to point out the thing that actually matters? It’s primarily the queer viewer, and then secondarily all the damn rest of us. But especially the not-out, questioning, queerling viewer.
Why? Because this is a perfect example of just another day of living while queer. I talk about this a lot in my workshops, about how living while queer is this ongoing, conscious experience of “am I safe right now?” It’s one of the reasons our own homes (if we’ve got them, if they’re supportive) and specifically queer spaces are so important: they’re a place we can finally let down our guard.
So. Imagine. You go to watch a baseball game. And, out of nowhere, when you’re not in a frame of mind of “protect myself”—because you’re just watching a baseball game, after all—someone reminds you you’re considered less than human. That’s what Thom Brennaman did.
Now, drill down a bit. Imagine the closeted queerling watching this with a parent. Imagine the parent chuckles. Imagine there’s discourse now in the household from the parent (and maybe other parents and other siblings) about how people are over-reacting, how it was an accident, how it doesn’t mean anything.
Those moments are excruciating, and so damn damaging to closeted queer people.
Thom Brennaman’s use of that slur has created those moments all over the place. The discourse will happen, is already happening. People who have no idea they’re talking in front of other queer people will happily defend Thom, talk about snowflakes, roll their eyes, dismiss it all as ridiculousness and being “offended.”
(Now we’re back to “offended.” It’s always the people “being offended” notice? Never the person “acting offensive.” Subtle shift of focus there, and definitely a shifting of blame—people were offended, not someone acted offensive. It puts the blame and the onus on queer people for having their gosh-darned feelings hurt.)
Anyway. Even for openly out, queer adults who are in secure positions in their life, for whom this barely scratches the surface of the crap we get day-in, day-out? This still sucks. Because thanks to Thom, we’ll get shoved into “teacher” discussions.
Well-meaning friends and “allies”—and also people who are neither—will bring it up, and ask us what we think, or to explain it to their friends who aren’t getting why it’s bad, or or or.
Cue the “I’ve heard gays use that word, though!”
Cue the “Is that really bad enough to cut off his livelihood?” like *we* somehow did this to him.
Cue “Cancel culture!” rants when what is happening is “Consequence culture.”
So many cues. Sealioning, gaslighting, “I’m just asking a question!”
Thom did all that.
I don’t even give a shit about baseball, and my feed is full of it. I can’t imagine what exhausted queer people who love baseball must be seeing. I imagine they’re wondering if it’s one more thing they should just give up on. I hope they don’t, but I get it if they do.