Wear red this month to show your awareness that hearts are a thing we have!
Hey you. Yeah, you. Elite athlete making millions of dollars playing football for the NFL. I know you’re concerned about the upcoming season now that Michael Sam, the star defensive lineman from Mizzou who’s a top NFL prospect, just came out as gay.
OH MY GOD WHAT IF HE LOOKS AT YOUR JUNK?!
Clearly, this is the most terrifying thing a modern-day gladiator like yourself faces at your job. Not a 300-pound mountain of muscle chasing you down, not a cataclysmic spinal injury, not the constant threat of brain damage.
The minute chance of a split-second side eye glance from another man who may, in his private life, be naked with his boyfriend, is clearly far more stressful.
But have no fear! I was a closeted gay athlete in high school (a defensive lineman like Michael Sam!), so I know a thing or two about navigating a locker room. I know, for instance, any fear you may have to being checked out by a gay teammate is nothing compared to the constant fear a closeted athlete has of being discovered/ridiculed/punched in the face by a bigoted teammate.
To help you through the next NFL season, here is a handy guide to how to behave in a locker room where a gay man may be present.
So, you know, like ANY OTHER LOCKER ROOM IN THE HISTORY OF MANKIND EVER.
Step 1: Acknowledge Your Gay Teammate
Say hello. Say “nice game.” Perhaps give him a compliment on a tackle, or a catch, or a great run. Maybe throw in a high-five or, if that is too uncomfortable for you (it shouldn’t be), give any another indication that you’re happy he’s on your team, even if he plays for a different team off the field.
Step 2: Acknowledge That He’s Human
Ask a question about his life. How’s his family? His partner? Talk about shared interests (Yes! You likely have shared interests with this homosexual human!) If you don’t know what this person likes, ask. Or talk about the weather! Or Beyoncé! Not because he’s gay, but because everyone, gay straight, male or female, Madagascan village elders or Inuit whale hunters, has something to say about Beyoncé. She’s the universal conversation starter.
Step 3: Get Undressed
Because you just spent two hours playing in the mud and dirt and it’s a locker room and you’re an adult and get over yourself and seriously, you have to change out of your uniform. You smell like shit.
Step 4: Realize at This Point, You’re Looking at Your Gay Teammate More Than He’s Looking at You
Why is he not looking at you? You’re attractive! You work out! Are you not his type? Maybe he’s only into punters. Oh my God, it’s almost as if your teammate is concentrating on getting cleaned up and getting home to his life, just like you were supposed to be before you got preoccupied with checking him out to see if he’s checking you out.
Step 5: Do Your Usual Stealth Glances of Other Naked Teammates
Because straight men size each other up all the time in locker rooms. But it’s from a place of competition, which is far more acceptable for some reason. Bros bein’ bros, etc.
Step 6: Realize at This Point, You’re Being Paid Millions of Dollars to Exist on This Team With This Gay Person, So You’ll Survive Somehow
At the absolute worst, this teammate finds you attractive and has a moment of weakness and lets one little glance slip that you catch, and you notice because you’re (of course) already staring at him. Now you know how the thousands upon thousands of breasts you’ve stared at slack-jawed in your lifetime feel. Congratulations, Margaret, you’ve just become a woman!
Step 7: Count the Number of Half-Naked Teammates Around You, Divide By 10
That’s how many actually are gay, whether they’ve stated it publicly or not. And they’ve been there all along, since you started playing football in high school, and somehow you’re still alive and unscathed and making millions of dollars.
Step 8: Shower
Because, again, you smell. If your gay teammate is showering at the same time, kudos to you for noticing he walked into the showers. Why are you watching him so closely, anyway? Seriously, are you cruising him?
Step 9: Dress, Go Home
And play with the piles of money you’ve earned from somehow being brave and manly enough to put on skin-tight capri pants, a jock strap and give other grown men really aggressive hugs and wrestle them to the ground.
John Loos is a Chicago-based writer and actor who has performed with The Second City at Sea and recently joined the faculty of The Second City Writing Program. He’s an ensemble member of GayCo Productions and performs in the two-man sketch and improv duo Pinque Pony. He can be tweeted @johnlooswins.