So, Italy forward Antonio Cassano made a pretty offensive remark last week. During an interview, a reporter mentioned that two members of the Italian National Team were gay. The reporter asked Cassano’s thoughts on the issue. Cassano (1) used an Italian slur for gays and (2) referred to being gay as “a problem.” Immediately, major media outlets all criticized his homophobic remark. Italian LGBT groups chastised the forward. The Italy coach, Cesar Prandelli, did damage control. Cassano apologized the next day. Justice wins, right? Wrong.
A footnote to this story bothered me. The reporter mentioned Alessandro Cecchi Paone, a journalist and author who claimed that he knew two members of the Italian national team were gay because he allegedly had relations with one of them. Did you follow that simple math? Paone has relations with man. Man is therefore gay. It’s a little too simple. It rests on some problematic assumptions. Of course, you can trust me as your favorite Queer theory armchair blogger to tear these heterosexist premises to shreds.
Let’s first analyze Paone’s claims in terms of theory. Let’s assume all the facts are true. Let’s assume that he had relations with the Italian national team player. I’ve already written about how the physical structure of “the locker room” forces LGBT players into a closet. Analytically, Paone’s claim imposes similar lingustic shackles in all people – both LGBTs and allies. Paone’s claim presupposes a black/white, either/or sexual orientation that is static. Basically, once you’ve had a relation with one gender, you are stuck in that preference. Because X player got with Paone, he falls forever into Box B. However, this static identity has been rightly questioned. Also, many studies have shed light on that famous Weezer quote that “Everyone’s a little queer….” Real life is not so simple.
Now, let’s look at the practicalities. First, could a soccer player be so dumb as to get with a journalist? Well, Iker Casillas dates a female one. It’s possible. However, Paone is no Adonis. The player would have to have exercised some pretty poor judgment in many sense of the word. Second, the timing is suspect. Paone published his book on LGBTs in sport and now announces in vague terms on a radio station during Euro 2012 that two Italy players are gay. Easy book promotion? Most definitely. And this points to a perverse and heterosexist assumption: the currency of the closet scandal.
Basically, homosexual identity has garnered more and more acceptance in recent years. However, heterosexist norms still linger at certain key points in society, like sports played by males. Paone feeds on this focal point, and heterosexism, to make a splash. He draws our attention by playing to our prejudices. In terms of rebuttal, Paone has a claim that “transparency” is the key to journalism. Paone may shed light on the truth behind the locker room. However, he comes off as milking society’s heterosexist assumptions to sell his book. People flock to read the pages and hear his remarks in the hopes of some prurient gossip, but why that gossip is “prurient” is never questioned. So what if two adult males had a relationship? Nobody asks. Instead, he’s created a transfer rumor but we whisper about sexual orientation, not Thiago Silva and PSG.
Third, and looking ahead to the future, within the LGBT community Paone’s potential revelation of the closeted footballers could have serious implications. There’s a distinct possibility that the footballers will probably deny it. Thus, his revelation could force them to cease and desist their clandestine relations with other men to throw off the press’ glare. Now, all genders & gender identities have their own kinda odd sexual subcultures. Some straight women like attached men. Some straight men are obsessed with virgins. Lastly, some gay men are obsessed with finding “the Holy Gayle.” Basically, they seek to find and convert super attractive heterosexual males at any cost. Are footballers attractive? Well, they do model underwear. Duh.
Therefore, if Paone outs the Italian gay soccer players, then their immediate reaction and need for super charged privacy may cut off the supply for other folks. He could effectively close the well before anybody else can frack a drop or two. Or at least try. Yes, he’s climbed Everest and wants to scream victory, but would that be fair to other people? Should he be allowed to close the trail after him? Also, any other guy that has gotten with the players will feel like an idiot – he thought he’d sipped from the Holy Gayle, but he was just another groupie. Sucker.
Or the players could admit their sexual orientation, we all learn a life lesson, and we live happily ever after. Perhaps the Italian LGBT groups could even coopt the negative term “froci” like the term “queer” in English, turn it positive, and make a “Forza Froci Azzurri” banner. Possible, but unlikely. For now, it’s another cassanate by Cassano. And a gay author preying on heterosexist stereotypes stands to turn a profit.