When I’m in Alabama I tend to put myself partially back in the closet. I think about the t-shirts I pack–no New York City Gay Hockey Association shirts for public wearing, for example. I make sure to edit discussions of “what’s new” around people who don’t know I have a husband. It’s not a full out lie since if I was asked a direct question that would yield an answer that I am married, and I’m married to a man, I would speak the truth (and it’s not like I go so far as to remove my wedding ring). It’s more of an omission to avoid rocking the boat in a region that is notoriously conservative about many things, that just gays. I’m generally okay with this since I’m only there for just a few days.
My stereotype about Southerns got rocked when I was down there a couple weeks ago. My trip was planned around making sure I was there for the Iron Cup games between Alabama’s Frozen Tide and the Auburn Tigers. Since I’ve been fascinated for a couple years now about the emergence of hockey at Southern college, I decided to take a leap and see if someone from Alabama’s hockey team would talk to me for a PuckBuddys article.
I pondered this for a couple days and decided to take the leap and ask if could interview someone. In my initial email I was careful to make sure they knew what PuckBuddys was, a site that took its hockey seriously but it was written by and for a gay audience. I also sent along a couple posts I’d done last year where I’d written about the Tide (one of which included my theory that the Red Wings played better on Tuesdays when the Glee episode was good).
My pitch for the article was about southern collegiate hockey and nothing else.
I was excited a day later when I got an email back from the assistant coach saying yes and that we could coordinate a time when I when I arrived in town.
Great! No issues with the gay site.
The big surprise came a day or so later when another email said they’d like me to talk to the player who is coordinating the team’s You Can Play video.
That was the last thing I expected to here. I wasn’t planning on touching on YCP at all because I wasn’t sure how that would go over.
The article published yesterday. I’m quite proud of how it turned out talking about YCP, the rising popularity of college hockey in the south along with a look at how Bama gets players and keeps the program growing as well as a recap of the Iron Cup games. Hop over to PuckBuddys to check out “Alabama Says ‘You Can Play’ as it Builds a Hockey Powerhouse.” Alabama Hockey retweeted it to its followers too shortly after it was published.
There were some key lessons for me in the aftermath of all this:
– Don’t assume because it’s the South that everyone there is anti-gay.
– Don’t assume that Southern sports teams are all anti-gay.
– Have the courage, when dealing with something you want to write about, to query about everything you want to discuss rather than leaving something on the table. After all, if they hadn’t offered up the YCP angle, a great part of the story would have gone untold.
I still doubt I’ll wear my NYCGHA shirts in Alabama anytime soon, but I’m going to try to make fewer judgements about how people in the south might perceive me if they find out that I have a husband. Clearly times are changing down there just like everywhere else.