An Open Letter to Jack Burkman

Dear Jack,

I read about your idea of getting the United States government to pass a bill outlawing the presence of gay men in the National Football League.  I’m curious why this is so important to you.  You state that your motive behind the bill is that America is “losing its decency as a nation.”  In this view, you are not alone. In all fifty states, indeed throughout the world, there are people who see the recent and continuing progress in LGBTQ equality and same-sex marriage rights as a threat to society.  Something is indeed threatened, but I suggest that it is not what you think it is.

The increased freedom and acceptance of gay people threatens you because you are afraid. You aren’t afraid of gay men—why should you be, since gay men have no interest or intention to hurt you—and your fear has nothing to do with the Bible, or the sanctity of children, or your feelings about anal sex.  You are afraid because you, and many men like you, have allowed your identity to be constructed around the singular fact that you are not gay.

Your masculinity is a fragile, hollow shell, a mask so brittle, so vulnerable, that the mere idea of gay sexuality requires a fit of outrage to cover up your deep fear.  And what exactly is this fear?

It is this: that you, Jack, might be less than a man.  If you were to truly feel the shame behind this thought, you would collapse.

Your idea of maleness has become calcified around what a man “is” or “is not,” what a man “does” or “doesn’t do.”  For instance, in your view, a man is the one who penetrates, and is never penetrated.

But now, all around you, there are signs of gay people finding acceptance—from others, and, most crucially, from themselves.  And because of your tribal mentality, where for every winner there must be a loser, you are freaking out.  All these gay wins!  Does this mean you are a loser?

I myself do not believe you are a loser.  I think that you are lost, which is not the same thing, and that you are seriously out of touch with your deepest nature, which is love.  And because you have so much fear in you, and because I myself know what it is like to feel afraid—try growing up gay if you want to know fear—I cannot hate you.  You and I are both men who have known fear.  I will fight against all your attempts to demean my existence as a person and a citizen, but today what I am feeling most of all for you, Jack, is compassion.  There is a place in my heart for all living creatures, and that includes you.  True, it is a small place—I can’t deny that you really annoy me and piss me off—but it is there.

And that place of compassion is there because, having been hated by so many, I do not like the way hate feels in my body.  When I hate someone, I give my power to them, I make them more important than myself.  Is that really what you want to do: make gay men more important to you than yourself?

I also read that you have a gay brother, who is not a fan of your politics.  I can’t blame him.  I hope, for both your sakes, that you and he find a way to reconcile and appreciate the beauty and value in each of you.

My final message is this: the day you understand that your identity as a strong and worthwhile man is not threatened by the existence by gay men living and loving openly, you will be freer, and happier, than you can possibly imagine today.  And I want that for you.  I want it for everyone.  Thanks to the struggles and courage of so many, including myself, I can savor that freedom and happiness myself today, and let me tell you, it is awesome.