Three waves of gay male athlete coming out narratives

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Recent announcements by Michael Sam, Jason Collins, Robbie Rogers, and others belong to a longer tradition that I label the gay male athlete coming out narrative. I chart this rhetorical genre in three waves, corresponding to the historical moment in which each narrative was published and the rhetorical tactics that each set of authors use to reconcile their identities as gay athletes and argue for the existence and suitability of gay men in professional sports. Of particular note are contemporary third-wave narratives which introduce the actively out, visible, gay male body becoming aware of his place in history as a rhetorical opportunity for social intervention. Even as I recognize the limits of athletes’ ability to represent the diversity of interests, values, and politics of the broader LGBTQ movement, I argue that these narratives should become part of what Charles E. Morris III calls “the diverse domain of the usable past.” These narratives indicate the importance of understanding genre evolution alongside individual biography, historical context, and shifting values within broader attempts at social transformation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)372-394
Number of pages23
JournalQuarterly Journal of Speech
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education


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