Consider this superb group of lads:
Seventeen teenagers there, enjoying the open air, all with bodies to die for. Each, you might think, the envy of any other kids in their school. But it doesn’t necessarily work like that…
My son Leo, driven by the sporting genes and environment of his parents, has built himself a strong, muscular body that he can be justly proud of. He puts it to good use with his gymnastics and acrobatics and, along with his equally muscular friend Chris has got himself into the wrestle team in his middle school…
Despite all of that, other kids, mainly the non-sporty (and dare I say typically overweight American youth) are giving him a hard time in school. Why? First it is his habit of being shirtless and barefoot whenever he can, like on lunchtimes in the school grounds, showing off his acrobatics alongside Chris, usually trying to impress the girls, and in gym class whenever the coaches will tolerate it. It is seen by a small minority as being ‘gay’ behaviour. Second is his lack of interest in team sports like football and baseball. I guess he gets that from me… we both prefer to meet physical challenges as individuals, choosing those ‘1 against 1’ activities. The other thing, which has previously afflicted some parents rather than the other kids (like ‘homophobe dad’ whom I’ve written about before) is his parentage – a gay dad and a lesbian mum – which means he ‘must’ be gay. Even though his parents now live under the same roof (admittedly each with their own homosexual partner!) this also means (to some idiots) that ‘he must be gay’. Which is ridiculous – he’s just about as straight as they come – and actually, is close to having his first real girlfriend (age 12!), a sporty girl in her own right who is genuinely impressed by his lunchtime antics.
I can tell that this is getting to him a little despite his efforts to laugh it off: I think he was slightly cheered by this picture I found, showing things ‘as they should be’…
Leo is a very strong-willed boy and, he assures me, is ‘dealing with it’. It was Jaymee (similar parentage, with Dave as dad) who alerted us to the problem: equally sporty and skilled in acrobatics, she is rather less of a show-off and has had large circle of friends in the school… and has kind of ‘merged’ into this protective circle and not had the same issues.
Indeed Clare (Leo’s mum) and I are more affected by this than Leo himself, especially as I had to deal at some length with that homophobic dad to allow his son (who I call Ryan here) to spend the time together with Leo – Ryan turns out to be more of a team player (basketball, for which he is perfectly built) and, to his great credit, has taken on some of the abusers for their remarks and has ‘won the day’.
In my view, take any group of lads who aren’t just addicted to playing electronic games in their hoodies, and eventually the shirts come off. I doubt you would accuse any of these of ‘being gay’:
…check out most teen parties these days and the guys are quickly shirtless (usually the showing-off-for-the-girls macho thing again!). Being proud of your body, even in front of the camera, is hardly automatically ‘gay’, is it?…
…or on the beach…
And I find it hard to understand why acrobatics are seen as ‘gay’ – especially as it is so ‘huge’ in the street workouts of Eastern Europe and Russia
– after all, Mr Putin doesn’t acknowledge gays in his realm at all, but his own shirtlessness is famous!
I refuse absolutely to post a Putin picture, shirtless or not. I have friends in Ukraine.
So, we’re all (adults and young friends alike) giving Leo as much support as we can. He wants to deal with it himself, not have parents running to the school administrators as yet, and I admire him for that. Hopefully the love of family and friends – and his prospective new girlfriend… will see him get by.
Let’s change the subject:
Occasionally I come across old pictures which are of interest. Here is what ‘acrobatics’ used to mean for groups of athletic men, often forming ‘clubs’ to practice this sort of thing:
That one comes courtesy of a fellow enthusiast for admiring fit young men, posted especially for me on another site by a guy going under the internet name of ‘Uncle Carl’. Thanks for that mate, and keep on searching those archives!
Now, here’s a ‘thought for the day’. I would say the ‘bullies’ are in the second category whilst the rest of us, potentially, fall into the first. We shouldn’t have self-doubt, and maybe what this post is all about is promoting self-confidence. Self confidence to work for what you want, whether it is in sport or in life in general.
For those for whom it means never being quite satisfied with your appearance, maybe a few more inspirational pictures will give you the confidence you need to get back into the gym and work just that little bit harder to achieve your goals!
Yeah! Great workouts built those guys. And acrobatics definitely is a lifestyle in Ukraine and similar places, definitely NOT a gay sport…
Support the ‘strong life style’ indeed! That’s what we say (and do…):
Those arms didn’t just appear out of nowhere – they are the product of a lot of effort! No, it doesn’t come easy, but it’s well worth putting in the hours…
It’s all about making sure you ‘Live Your Dream’… something that this book and its successors are all about. Being gay (in our case, not Leo!), hitting the gym, doing acrobatics, performing in circus, and enjoying every last second of it… you might find it quite a good read. Notice that all three of them have a curious Chinese symbol on the cover (clickable covers, by the way). I leave you to do the detective work, but it is all about supporting one another through brotherhood and friendship… and that’s exactly what Leo’s true friends are doing for him, so that his parents can, at least for now, stay in the background. Good for them.
Some young muscle in a hotel corridor, now:
You’re never too young to work on your body, but when you’re in the growing phase, it must be done with care and advice from someone properly trained. He’s doing rather well, wouldn’t you say?
Get yourself a training partner with the same goals as you… it really pays off.
With the encouragement and support of those best mates, you’ll make progress quickly enough. And that support of his friends will see Leo through this rough patch, too. Just be proud of who you are and what you have, and never mind what anyone else says.