Among the more than 9,000 LGBT athletes and artists competing in the Gay Games this week in Cologne are about two-dozen Atlantans, including runner Wesley Anderson.
The 32-year-old also plays softball with the Atlanta Venom in the Hotlanta Softball League and recently joined Front Runners Atlanta. We caught up with Anderson before he left for the Gay Games to discuss gay jocks and his plans to take part in the triathlon and half marathon.
Project Q Atlanta: What’s the most challenging part of your sport?
Anderson: The fact that the half marathon is the last day of the Gay Games. That means you have to eat well and not drink during the week of this amazing festival. That may be tough.
What does it mean to you personally to participate in such a big event?
It is huge. I participated four years ago in Chicago for my first Gay Games. It was so much fun. The sport is neat but meeting all kinds of new people and making new friendships is more fun to me. It is a one-of-a-kind experience.
Before coming out, did you ever struggle over being gay and being an athlete? Ever had to look the other way or ignore straight players dissing gays?
Not really. My coming out was not real typical, I suppose. I really did not know that I was gay until I was 24. I had my first experience at that age and was out just a few months later. Everything just kind of clicked and made sense. So beforehand I was not homophobic but did not feel like I was different in those terms.
After coming out, I played on gay teams so I did not really face that kind of pressure with the exception of playing softball in straight leagues or tourneys with my gay team, which can be tough at times. That is the only time I have had to ignore any kind of ignorance. Generally speaking, the Venom is pretty darned good so even in the straight tourneys we hold our own, which again helps to break down the stereotype.
Why is it that sports seem like the last place that it’s OK to be gay? How do high-profile events like the Gay Games bust stereotypes and make inroads for openly gay athletes in the outside world?
I love sports so I don’t mean this in a bad way, but many of them require talent alone and not a whole lot of brains. Don’t get me wrong, you have to have field sense and a knowledge of your game and the better that sense or feeling is the better you are at your sport. But there are a lot of uneducated athletes out there—old fashion, so to speak.
Where there is lack of education there tends to be ignorance and hatred and people are petrified not to be the “norm.” I believe that is why it is one of the last places in society that people will come out, however we are not far away from some big names coming out or are forced out. Hopefully they come out and it won’t be long after that it is no bid deal to be gay in sports. It will take an A-rod or someone who is just so darned good that there talent can’t be ignored.
Have you ever dealt with people who are surprised by the “butch factor” or think that gay equals bad at sports?
All the time. It is all just based on ignorance. I don’t mean ignorance in a bad way. I just mean based on lack of information. You see it just as much in the gay community as the straight community. We see it when we play in the straight tournaments all the time, but the more we play the more stereotypes that are busted.
Recently, the Venom played in a straight tourney. Word got out and we got heckled a bit, but we also saw a lot of people watching on with more curiosity than anger. We played one of the best teams for that division in the state and the pitcher kept running his mouth, talking trash, gay this, gay that. It angered us and we destroyed that team. We gained a lot of respect from some of the other teams by just bearing down and playing harder.