Mar 23, 2018

The Homophobic Horrors of Gym Class

The homophobic horror that is high school gym class began in 1855, when the state of Ohio made the ill-fated decision to require it of all students.  It took off during the 1920s, when "physical culture" was all the rage in Europe, and students were doing gymnastics in the yard.

By the time I entered junior high in 1972, the diabolical structure was in intact.

1. The "class" was actually called Physical Education or "p.e.," but only girls said that.  Boys had to say "gym."  Unless you used the term "class" with it, in which case it was "p.e. class," not "gym class."

Got that?  Better not slip up, or you would be called a "fairy" or a "girl."



2. The two most gifted athletes in the class would then become team captains, and choose their team members.  "Fairies" were constantly ridiculed and degraded during the process, and left unchosen at the end, while the two team captain argued over who had to take them.  "I'm not taking the fairy -- you take him!"  "No way -- no girls on my team -- you take him!"

Then we played a sport.  No instruction in rules or strategies -- the "teacher' assumed that we already knew the rules.  If we asked, we were yelled at: "Don't be a smart-ass!  You know the rules!"

3. In junior high the sport was usually dodge ball, which involves trying to kill each other with hard round projectiles while yelling homophobic slurs: "Take this, fag!"






4. In high school the sports were football in the fall, basketball in the winter, softball in the spring.  Same procedure: no instruction, two jocks picking teams and deriding the "fags" and "fairies" while the "teacher" looked on.







Football was the worst.  "Stand here, facing this big, hulking man-mountain.  You're going to try to stop him from passing this line."

I just stepped aside and let him through.









We also got brief instructional tours, single class sessions, of golf, archery, and tennis, barely enough to learn what the equipment looked like. 

And rope-climbing.  I never understood that one.









I was very happy during my junior year, when the "teacher" gave up and just gave us free days to do whatever we wanted.  I ran around the track.  No homophobic taunts, no humiliation, and no projectiles hurled at you.



10 comments:

  1. Got that right. Sure brings back the unpleasant memories! How I hated gym. Just hated it. A little "refinement" is that I was in an enriched class for the brainy students and we were just hopeless at sports, but they made us field a team anyway! Of course, we got creamed. During the whole 3 years, we won exactly one game, I remember it was baseball, and the losing team got a taste of the ridicule from the rest of the school. You lost to those "fags"?!? hahaha. I am nearly 60 now, and even today, the stupidity of the adults in charge makes my blood boil.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not all is brainy kids are squishy wizards, though.

      Eh, while the 90s were pretty homophobic, the kids less so, so gym wasn't that bad.

      (Most of my generation views the 90s the way you might view the 50s.)

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    2. I think of the 1990s as a brief liberal reprieve between the Reagan-era homophobic backlash and the Bush 2 era homophobia.

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    3. But Bill Clinton also gave us DOMA (which even my high school self knew was unconstitutional, full faith and credit clause, basically South Carolina can't tell Massachusetts or Vermont "What you just did? Didn't happen.") and don't ask, don't tell. He belonged to a white-only country club.

      Funny thing, a bunch of rich pricks being racist, every Clinton nostalgic seems to think rich pricks can't be racist. (They deal with the obvious contradiction by saying Trump's not really rich.)

      Delete
  2. I detested gym class also. All 4 years of Middle School and 2 of High School. The only saving grace during Middle school gym class that during shower time our gym teach who was extremely hairy showered with us.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In the 90s, showering together was passé. We still had showers, and teams did use them, but it was only mandatory for athletes under the logic that you knew you'd be showering before you signed up.

      Our litigious society.

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    2. We had group showers in the 1970s.

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  3. There was a bit of a panic about pedophiles in the 80s. I say panic because it came from the same place as Michelle Remembers, and the actual modus operandi of typical pedophiles, grooming the kids and their families, was ignored.

    And now I'm thinking about Petscop.

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  4. I cannot say I enjoyed high school at all, ditto for gym class. A teacher giving up and allowing the class to do whatever the students want has the real potential to make any student vulnerable to bullying, but especially gay or bisexual students.

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  5. Oh how I remember hating gym class. It was basically a free fire zone for all the jocks to terrorize anyone that didn't measure up. I was a 'nerd' and typically placed at the top of any academic classes, so gym class was payback time for all the guys that resented me. Of course I was a bit of a snot showing off my supposed superiority in math, history, science, and English classes so I guess that I was asking for it too. But the gym teachers never intervened to stop any of the bullying. I remember being targeted in dodgeball, knocked flat on my ass in basketball, and tackled by MY OWN TEAMMATEs in football. Looking back I'm not sure how I managed to avoid being labeled a fag, but being a nerd was bad enough. If I'd been outed back then I don't think that I would have made it through the 70s. I hope that schools have managed to evolve past that sort of bulls**t. My last high school reunion, I ran into one of my main tormentors. He didn't remember any of the stuff that happened back then, or at least he didn't remember it as I did. It was 'all in good fun' according to him, and he couldn't understand why I didn't like him.

    ReplyDelete

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