Athletic Type

Queer Sports Fiction

Sports stories have always captivated a mainstream audience. Over 400,000 titles are currently available in all sports topics. But gay athletes seem to be an oxymoron the public is told should not exist.

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Recent ESPN specials on gays in athletics have maintained a downcast viewpoint, showcasing many former athletes and straight athletes who confirm that, with the exception of individual sports in some cases, the locker room is one of the last great bastions of homophobia.

Yet many thrive in this environment. Tales of athletic love are evident in the original Olympic athletes, many of whom were bisexual, among them Apollo and his loved one Hyacinth, known most for his death by discus.

After the 1895 recreation of Olympic Games, physical culture became reintroduced in post-industrial society as more than a pastime of the elite, encouraging boys, mostly, to consider jockdom as the preferred extracurricular activity.

The growth of teenagers as a market expanded the products as well, and Boy's Life articles regularly featured a diverse array of sports, even Donkey Basketball.

A school of cheerful young adult fiction grew out of this. Boys who learn the values of team work, athletic endeavor and the cheering on the sport, and a love of the team, if not teammates.

Girls, however, were more often pressured into more feminine sports for decades. Fortunately, much current and recent literature as well as Title IX, have advanced and improved the world of women's sports, and their stories. Exceptions in film include Pat and Mike and the TV-movie Babe.

Mainstream culture has long exploited the homoerotic aspects of athleticism while denying its sexuality. Porn owes billions to the jock strap.

But what of fiction and the myth of the hero? How does it effect competition, and the depiction of it, with this difference?

Among the bestselling novels about gay athletes is Patricia Nell-Warren's The Front Runner trilogy, the classic tale of a defiantly out Olympic runner and his lover and Coach. Two sequels further that legacy.

In the Young Adult genre, the "Oops, my teammate's a tight end" plot has found more success than that featuring a gay lead.

In Anne Snyder's Counter Play, Brad goes through the variant phases of accepting his gay teammate, at the risk of losing all his friends.

Diana Wieler's Bad Boy a sweet and unaffected tale, includes a touch of off-the-ice trouble as well as predictable tensions amid a hockey team.

In the Crush on Coach Category: Scott Heim's Mysterious Skin explores coachal abuse amid breakfast cereals, but the Little League angle is pushed off course by other subjects like alien abduction.

E. Lynn Harris's And This Too Shall Pass is partially about a closeted pro football player and a gay sportwriter. It provides intriguing locker room drama between what has become a bestselling series.

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