Department of Education: Title IX Hearings

San Diego CA November 20 2002 

Male Scholastic Sports: A Case FOR Affirmative Action

Proportionality is doing irreparable harm to a large population of young gay males 

A federal commission was established to determine the impact of Title IX, the legislation passed to make athletic opportunities equal for men and women in federally funded schools. The legislation turned 30 this year. Outsports is reprinting testimony from two people who focus on the law and its impact on gays and lesbians. Related: Homophobia still rampant in women's sports. 

Remarks made by Gene Dermody to the Title IX commission in San Diego on Nov. 20.

Dermody is past president of the Federation of Gay Games.

      Good afternoon. My name is Gene Dermody and I am honored to be here. For the sake of brevity, a degree of rhetorical hyperbole will be employed in the hope of achieving clarity. However my research is solid and it is supported by my own experience:

      a.) 35 years with the sport of wrestling as a competitor, coach, and organizer (I just turned 54 last week).

      b.) 13 years as a New Jersey high school chemistry teacher and head wrestling coach.

      c.) 15 years as a Freestyle club coach.

      d.) 10 years as an organizer and executive with the Federation of Gay Games.

      e.) 20 years as a sports organizer, competitor, and coach with all 6 Gay Games.

      f.) 1 year as a board member with the Bay Area Sports Organizing Committee, the group which recently promoted San Francisco to the USOC as one of American bid cities for the 2012 Olympics.


      I believe sports are a crucial component in the proper socialization and education of our youth. My purpose here today is to articulate a different consequence of Proportionality.

      The noble intent of Title IX is not at issue. The problem is Proportionality as a standard of compliance. Instead of it being an Affirmative Action tool or metric, Proportionality has become the goal, a quota; a de facto "end in itself."

      Proportionality assumes that men and women would participate equally in sports all other factors being equal. The data does not validate this assumption, especially at the university level. It is also glaringly unfair that Proportionality has never been applied to other university programs where there are more striking gender gaps: e.g.. orchestra, marching band, chorus, spirit team, and dramatic arts to name a few.

      Proportionality imposes an unrealistic "top-down" solution at the university level that requires immediate proportional gender representation in athletics. But consider the success of women’s soccer. Significant female participation at the elite level first required long-term investment of resources at the grass root level. The American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) produced those successful women’s soccer programs, not Proportionality.

      In short, Proportionality is based upon poor research and inaccurate sociological assumptions. Yet Proportionality is still used with impunity as a solution looking for a problem.

      The Gay Games have always been sensitive to the inclusion of women, and have gone through great lengths in terms of research and expenditures to increase female participation since 1982. However after six Gay Games, we have yet to break the 40% barrier of female participation in athletics, and in frustration, I have come to question the very premise of gender Proportionality. Not that I would recommend a rollback of commitment, resources, and effort, but it is unthinkable for the Gay Games to consider restricting men’s participation in order to achieve Proportionality. Accomplishing the greatest good for the greatest number is still paramount regardless of gender.

      Demographics: Cultural and Morphological Diversity:

      There is no denying the biological nature of young males. The larger athletic types have an easier social adjustment because they have more opportunities in which to excel. The ‘All American’ athletic paradigm is still pervasive at the grass roots level; football, baseball, and basketball, in which size (gross morphology) is paramount.

      But the numbers of the young males who currently compete in scholastic sports just in California is contradictory. Would it startle anyone to learn that there is an extraordinarily high number of young males who are blue-collar to poor, minority (Asian, Black, Latino, mixed), under 5’8”, and under 150 lbs ? Are they not the new majority? Do we not have an obligation to offer sports programs and scholarships in line with that cultural and morphological diversity?

      Social Risk:

      Young males are at greater risk in society than young females. The risks include academic failure, violence, mental disorders, learning disabilities, drug addiction, alcoholism, incarceration, suicide, HIV, and general mortality rates. Some of the risks are congenital, some are social. The cause of many of the social problems is self esteem, and it manifests itself in the extreme in young males as an antisocial syndrome with two paradoxically opposite behaviors:

      (a.) The aggressive male, often the ‘bully’, who persecutes his peers, and is consequently isolated by them

      (b.) The passive male, often the ‘sissy’, who is persecuted by his peers, and consequently isolates himself.

      Regardless of whether it is too little or too much self esteem, the isolation compounds the antisocial behaviors. Interestingly, the condition cuts across all demographics. Bullies and sissies can be big and little, jocks and geeks, straight and gay. But despite the persistent stereotypes, there is little correlation with any one factor save the lack of persistent healthy interaction with traditional male institutions of socialization, e.g. SPORTS.

      Lack of Diverse Opportunity:

      Team sports like baseball, football, and basketball work well with many externally directed young males. These males respond well to traditional discipline, peer pressure, and the group ethos, the military "group dynamics" approach.

      Baseball requires exceptional hand-eye coordination, and football and basketball limit participation by gross size. Sadly, in all three sports, it is genetics that is the excluding factor. But Proportionality is not threatening these sports.

      Threatened by Proportionality are the individual sports that appeal to the other demographic of male athletes; sports like gymnastics, diving, and wrestling, which have an element of art in them. These sports have an important place in an enlightened society because they have a rich tradition for being more inclusive; especially for the more introspective/inner directed young males who do not fit the morphological, group dynamic, and kinematic requirements of the baseball-football-basketball paradigm.

      The Gay Perspective:

      If the objective of our educational system and our Affirmative Action policies is to enhance the level of fairness through diversity and equal access to opportunity, then the contribution that scholastic gymnastics, diving, and wrestling have made to the self esteem of young gay males is an asset that is of value to a pluralistic society.

      The leadership provided by just two of our Gold Medal Olympic athletes--Bruce Hayes and Greg Louganis--along with David Pichler, as role models to young gay males has been inspirational and noteworthy.

      However the university athletic programs that produced these and other gay Olympic athletes are either threatened by, or already a victim of Proportionality. This example is not anecdotal, and can be easily replicated in other sports, not only with Olympic athletes, but with a vast network of university coaches and competitors known to us within the Gay Games movement.


      Whatever social risks exist for a young male, they are dramatically increased if he is gay. If we as a society really care about all of our scholastic male athletes, then the importance of these athletic programs must be elevated to the level of requiring Affirmative Action.

      In short, Proportionality is doing irreparable harm to a large population of young gay males who are already more socially at risk, by destroying athletic opportunities and erasing the possible emergence of desperately needed role models.

      If one accepts the premise that male scholastic sports are one proven remedy for male antisocial syndrome, then one must consider the logical conclusion. If the cultural and morphological demographics are correlated with both the statistics of greater social risk, and the decrease of diverse athletic opportunities, then is there not a compelling case to be made against Proportionality?

      Personal Perspective:

      I know what it was like to be "different," to not be able to catch or throw a baseball, to be too little for football, and too short for basketball. I know what it feels like to be the runt, to be violent, aggressive, and angry that I could not play because there was no game for me.

      I can only shudder to think where I would be today if I had never wandered into my first wrestling practice at NYU as one of those now prohibited "walk-ons" . One need only look at the tragedy of my generation, HIV, to comprehend how that program saved my life. I would not have had that chance if Proportionality was practiced back in 1966.

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