Today I am so excited to welcome author Keira Andrews to the blog. Keira is here to share her thoughts with us and sports and m/m romance. Please help me give her a big welcome!
I’ve always loved sports. From the Blue Jays winning the pennant in ’85 to the Calgary Olympics in ’88, sports were an important part of my formative years. I discovered early on the feeling of community and sharing a common goal that’s a vital aspect of why people follow sports. I fondly remember going to the winning game of the 1993 World Series and hugging many strangers when Joe Carter’s homer sailed over the wall. We were all in it together — the athletes, the fans, the city, the country. It was glorious.
While watching Wimbledon in 2005, I chatted to a friend about the fact that no male tennis player had ever come out. (It was no secret that Bill Tilden was gay, but his predilection for underage boys ruined his legacy and his life.) We mused about why it’s different from women’s tennis, which has long featured champion — and out — lesbian players. Surely there must be gay players on the ATP tour, so what challenges and pressures do they face that the women apparently don’t? From this discussion, Love Match and my affection for the m/m sports romance genre was born.
It’s a man’s man’s world
Despite all the butt slapping going on, the sports world is largely a bastion of homophobia. That’s thankfully starting to change, most notably in the NFL. Although there’s still a long way to go, it’s heartening to see progress being made.
But many sports still exist in hyper-masculine environments. In 2008, former pro tennis player Justin Gimelstob was quoted as saying “the locker room couldn’t be a more homophobic place.” Would a gay male tennis player be shunned in the locker room in 2013? Or is it that perception and the fear of losing sponsorship dollars that’s keeping male players in the closet? Hard to say.
One of the aspects that draws me to m/m sports romance is challenging traditional ideals of masculinity. A tough and buff athlete is often likely described as being a “man’s man.” A man’s man is confident, strong, bold. He embodies traditional gender roles. In the past, he certainly would never be homosexual. I love reading about gay, bi or trans* men who defy stereotypes and expectations — and who find love against the odds, no matter what anyone else thinks.
Of course not all male athletes are macho — nor should they be. Even in an artistic sport such as figure skating, homophobia and gender stereotyping are alive and well. From the outside world, young male figure skaters are often the subject of derision and homophobic slurs no matter their sexuality. Inside the sport, there’s pressure for male skaters to be traditionally “masculine” and for women to be “feminine” (it’s only in recent years female skaters have been permitted to wear pants in competition). Mary Louise Adams wrote a fascinating book on the subject.
The thrill of victory — the agony of defeat
The theatricality inherent in sport is a huge part of why m/m sports stories drawn me in. It brings together two things I love: gay romance and sports drama. The struggle to be the best stirs up passion in athletes and fans alike, making for compelling storylines rife with tension. Add romance into the equation and it’s a winning formula. (Sure, throw in some hot locker room sex too!)
Along with the romance, m/m sports stories give us the chance to get into the heads and hearts of the characters in a way we’re not really able to in real life. Although we might follow athletes for years through their ups and downs, we’ll never truly know them beyond the sound bites they share through the media. But in fiction we can get inside their heads, and even if the game or competition isn’t real, we can experience it from the inside on a deeper level. For me it doesn’t really matter what the sport is. Give me an m/m romance about curling and I’m interested! (I bet they’ll be hurrying hard all right.)
I’m so excited for Jock Week and to discover new m/m sports romances I might have missed. Do you have a favourite sport you love seeing featured in m/m romance? What’s the appeal of m/m sports romances for you?