Our society continues to merge into a homogenized crock-pot of ideas, sexual orientations and religious affiliations. As with most change there is a level of resistance that leads to the birth of advocates and advocacy groups that spearhead the plight of their constituency to the masses.
But how far is too far in advocating for a cause?
Michael Irvin, one of the most recognizable sports figures of our age, has picked up the torch as a gay rights activist. His compelling interview with “Out” magazine was one of the most open and honest dialogues witnessed from a sports superstar, in regards to homosexuality.
I happen to completely agree with the fundamental thrust of the interview. Michael Irvin says, “…no one should be telling you who you should love, no one should be telling you who you should be spending the rest of your life with…” and he’s right. Irvin’s personal battles have not kept him from captivating sports audiences, so it’s not surprising he elevated the conversation to a place it needs to go. The concern, though, isn’t so much what Irvin said, but what he did that has the sports world abuzz.
His decision to pose for a “sexy” photo spread begs the question — how far is too far as an advocate? “Out: positions itself a lifestyle magazine for gay men and is comparable to Maxim, which means it’s not above selling sex to sell magazines. As advocates you are often asked to lend your voice, time and dime to support the cause.
Irvin lending his body as a pseudo sex symbol for the gay community is a step too far. What was presented and in the fashion it was done only perpetuates the ugly stereotypes of homosexual men.
Homsosexuality from the male perspective sometimes positions gays as sex crazed maniacs. This is the furthest thing from the truth. But there is a large sect of society that holds antiquated stereotypes near and dear to their hearts.
As a community and as an advocate the objective isn’t to perpetuate stereotypes but to eradicate them through education. Michael Irvin’s voice is extremely powerful and is enough to draw ears to the cause. But greasing up his body and posterizing it on the cover of a “lifestyle” magazine does more harm than good.
There are those that like to draw the parralels between the civil rights movement and the gay community’s struggles – even though gay struggles pale in comparison to the horrors the black community faced in its fight for equality.
Advocates don’t have to be a part of the community; they just have to believe in the cause. Martyrs like Dr. Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers and Malcom X paid the ultimate price in advocating their cause, and they were a part of the black community.
Michael Irvin articulated in his interview that he was not a homosexual but a straight male so put him in the category of Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, white civil rights advocates (CORE) murdered by Ku Klux Klan members in Philadelphia, Miss., merely for their involvement with the movement. They were not a part of the community but were willing to pay the ultimate price.
The presence and voice of those two white men in support of civil rights was extremely powerful. They didn’t need to dress up in black face and tap shoes to prove their alignment with the struggle. Unlike Michael Irvin and “Out” magazine they were able to recognize when enough was more than enough.
The movement didn’t need its Caucasian activists to be more than what they were because anything more runs the risk of looking tacky and desperate, which is what happened with Irvin photo shoot. We don’t need to see Irvin to believe in or agree with his principles. We just need to hear him. Doing anything else takes away from the dignity of his argument, and panders to the stereotypes he is trying to eliminate.
In this case, Michael Irvin went too far.
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