|from The Advocate S p o r t s |
19 August 1998
by Dan Woog
|Men from every form of competitive sports discuss the parallel universes of gay men and athletics in this |
encyclopedic book. Woog covers all the bases with his profiles of gay gymnasts, quarterbacks, and coaches
who compete in America's macho athletic scene--sometimes openly, sometimes not.
The following excerpt from Jocks tells of a gay wrestler who found his life and his identity in his sport:
Gene Dermody is gay, but he thinks of himself first and foremost as a wrestler. Little else matters to him, not his
job as a "computer nerd/consultant," not even the fact that San Francisco's Golden Gate Wrestling Club, where
he trains, is gay. "Any wrestler, gay or straight, knows you can't have two focuses while you compete," he says.
"People wrestle for the competition, not for any sexual component."
In fact, Gene notes, in San Francisco's gay community his wrestling club is sometimes thought too mainstream.
"We're not a sex club or a self-help group," he insists. "We allow gay men to relate to each other on a nonsexual
level. A lot of gay men have trouble relating in nonsexual ways. Wrestling lets you do that."
When Gene began wrestling, at New York University, he was still dating women. "I was totally unaware of
sexuality," he says. But a year after graduation, "a little blond" cruised him and picked him up on the 42nd Street
subway shuttle. "He seduced me, and the gates opened," Gene recalls. "I thought, So that's what sex is about!"
During the next 12 years Gene worked as a high school science teacher and wrestling coach, first in New
Jersey and later in Manhattan. In his free time he wrestled for a YMCA team. The sport was a core part of his
life; he realizes now that it also kept him alive. New York in the '70s and early '80s was a hedonistic,
destructive place for gay men, but Gene did not participate. "I had lots of boyfriends," he says. "Many of them
are dead. I saw all the drugs and other stuff, but I just never did it. I never had sex with two or three people in
one day. Maybe I was undersexed, but, knock on wood, it saved me."
In 1982 Gene saw a flier for the first Gay Games. He called up and registered. He arrived in San Francisco not
knowing what to expect and found an entire contingent of New Yorkers. He wound up carrying the state flag
during opening ceremonies and discovering a community of gay athletes he never dreamed existed.
"There was so much camaraderie," he marvels. "This whole crowd of guys was just like me--people with real
jobs, people who didn't abuse their bodies. To top it off, it was extremely competitive."
Gay Games founder Dr. Tom Waddell presented Gene with the third-place medal ("I was pissed I only got a
bronze!" he says), and that week changed his life. He quit his teaching job, moved to San Francisco, and
studied computer technology. He zoomed up the corporate ladder while luxuriating in meeting mirror images of
The Golden Gate Wrestling Club was founded by several people who organized the first Gay Games. When
their leader died of AIDS complications the day after the second Gay Games ended (Gene earned a silver
medal), he took over. Today it is a bona fide city program with a core membership of 35 (including ten
women). It's fully sanctioned by U.S. Amateur Wrestling, a branch of the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Wrestling does not attract more gay men than other sports, Gene emphasizes. "It's so intimidating as a 12- or
13-year-old to walk into a wrestling room in the first place, with all those sweaty people rolling around," he
says. "If you're gay or think you might be, it can be almost impossible. I think track and swimming might have a
lot of gay people--but not wrestling."
But gay wrestlers do exist, and enough of them find their way to the Golden Gate Wrestling Club to make it a
force to be reckoned with. Gene Dermody is proud of his team but prouder still of the individuals on it. "We've
got guys who had drug and alcohol problems and sex addictions," he says. "Now they're wrestling, and maybe
for the first time in their lives, they feel good about themselves. It's about dedication, commitment, and
competition, not about who looks best or who can get who. All that sexual stuff is unimportant. But
From Jocks by Dan Woog. ©1998 by Dan Woog. Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Alyson
Jocks: True Stories of America's Gay Male Athletes is a ground-breaking book -- the first ever to examine the
challenges and triumphs of gay men involved in high school and college sports, as athletes, coaches, even
referees. Jocks has been praised by NBC's Bob Costas, NPR's Frank Deford, and the New York Post's Phil
Mushnick. It was published in January, 1998 and shot to the top of the Advocate's best-seller list, where it
spent several winning months.
Jocks explores the differences and similarities between team and individual sports, and the men who compete in
them. It recounts the triumphs of young men who have overcome homophobia to compete and win, as well as
those who used the lessons they learned on playing fields, courts and rinks to help others "beat" homophobia.
Ultimately, Jocks is an inspiring testament to the fact that gay people are, indeed, everywhere -- and are true