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PostHeaderIcon What’s Behind the Increase in “Gay” Tennis Player Searches?

gay-search

There’s been a sharp increase in the number of gay-related search terms used on my blog. I first noticed it a few days ago when my blog dashboard showed an increase in internal site searches for variants of “marion bartoli lesbian”. Yes she had a dramatic first-round match at this year’s French Open, but why were there searches for her sexual orientation?

Here’s the list from that weekly top 10 (in order from 1-10): taylor townsend, kevware.com+tennis, marion bartoli lesbian, marion bartoli gay, aggie Radwanska, marion bartoli lesbi, tennis gay, graphene speed pro discussions, logo head speed mp 315 djokovic, bartoli marion homo.

Four of the ten were about Marion Bartoli’s sexuality, which is surprising given that there isn’t anything I’ve seen or read that would lead anyone to that conclusion – other than Marion’s inability to walk in high heels.

Delving deeper, I took a look at the all-time top 500 search terms used for internal searches on my blog. “Taylor Townsend” was number one, probably owing to my heavily-read piece about Taylor Townsend and her past issues with the USTA. The second was “Aggie Radwanska”, again owing to my heavily-read “What’s the Deal with Aggie Radwanska?!”  The third struck gold with “grigor dimitrov gay”, and from there the flood gates opened.

Nearly 100 of the terms were a player name along with “gay”, “lesbian”, or “homosexual” in various languages. After cleaning, the list yielded the names of 14 players and 2 hitting partners:

Grigor Dimitrov, Sara Errani, Milos Raonic, Marion Bartoli, Dani Vallverdu (hitting partner), Sam Stosur, Francesca Schiavone, Justin Gimelstob, Xavier Malisse, Angelique Kerber, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Sascha Bajin (hitting partner), Andy Murray, Victoria Azarenka, Marin Cilic, Ryan Harrison.
(click here for complete list in pdf form)

Why the increase, and why searches for these particular players?  There are a few reasons I can think of, legitimate and otherwise.  But the main one that comes to mind is Jason Collins’ decision to come out as the first openly gay player in the NBA, and its’ effect on the public psyche about gays in professional sports.

Immediately after Jason came out, there was speculation across all sports as to who would be next, and how they might be received by fans and fellow athletes. Given the high profile nature of his decision, it stands to reason that people might come to the site of an LGBT writer for information on potentially gay athletes.

But even if the “Jason Collins Effect” is the primary reason for these increases, I’m fairly certain that there are a few other reasons as well.  Let’s start with the women.

For a few of these players, I’d say that the user is looking for confirmation. At least one of the women listed is quietly going about her business on tour with her partner in tow for support. If someone sees pictures of this player with the same woman multiple times, they’re looking for confirmation.

Others are most assuredly on the list because of their on-court mannerisms.  Schiavone, Errani, and Kuznetsova all come across as fairly masculine when they play, fueling speculation about their sexuality. I love them as players, but all three walk like truck drivers between points. Walking like a truck driver, however, is hardly proof of someone’s sexual orientation.

With others, the speculation seems silly, as with Azarenka. Anyone who’s followed the top women is aware that Redfoo of LMFAO has been heavily linked to Azarenka. Her inclusion on the search list feels like a tabloid talking point.

As for the men, good looks have always had a lot to do with perceived sexuality. There is an unspoken belief that a good-looking and well-groomed man must be gay. Several athletes have dealt with gay rumors because of their looks, including Derek Jeter, Oscar de la Hoya, David Beckham, Cullen Jones, Jeff Gordon, and Cristiano Ronaldo. Nothing has been proven, but the perception exists.

Out former player, Francisco Rodriguez

Similarly, there are guys on my site search list that are likely questioned for that reason. Grigor, Dani, Milos and Sasha are excellent examples of how good looks probably lead to a false perception on their sexuality since they’re all very good-looking, and highly desired by both women and gay men. (So I hear.)

Conversely, you have players who have never been questioned about their sexuality because they could care less about their looks.  Juan Martin Del Potro isn’t in the search list, but then again he often wears a scruffy beard like Wolverine of the X-Men. Outside of the gay “bear” community, scruff doesn’t convey gay.

Justin, Andy, and the others are harder to figure out. There could be genuine interest in their personal lives; though searching for Andy’s orientation makes no sense because his girlfriend Kim Sears is well-known on tour. And Justin’s beautiful model-esque wife is clearly not his “beard”.

As with some of the women, I imagine that a few of these searches were done for gossip sake. But it’s curious that this list doesn’t contain names of guys who’ve actually been rumored to be gay.  Richard Gasquet, for example, dealt with rumors about his orientation for years because of a friendship with an older businessman. Rumors have also existed, to a lesser degree, about Rafa. This suggests that maybe the searches are more about desire than reality.

REUTERS/Charles Platiau via Daylife

The one good thing about all of the search terms was that none were negative or pejorative. This suggests that, at least in theory, the searches were more out of curiosity and less about finding dirt or creating hate.

For the record, being gay gives me no greater authority on or knowledge about a player’s sexuality than it would their taste in furniture. Furthermore, I’d never engage in an irrelevant discussion of a player’s sexuality. Even with this piece, I make no claims about the sexual orientation of any player. My goal is to always show as much respect for the game and its’ players as I can. A discussion of a closeted player’s sexuality has little to do with respect of any kind.

That’s not to say that I haven’t written pieces from an LGBT point of view, because I have; and I think they’re pretty decent. These include “Dominika, Sam, And A Very Poor Choice Of Words”, “SAP Open 2012: 15 Thoughts Before The Quarterfinal From an LGBT Perspective“, or “Sara Errani is a Tough and Spunky Gal”. I’ve also written many pieces on the United States Gay Open (USGO), the GLTF’s big annual tournament. (I’ve been a GLTF member since ’98.)

Topical and relevant pieces about LGBT perspectives, or pieces about players living life as out gay athletes, a la Amelie Mauresmo, is one thing; outing someone for amusement and titillation is another. If you’re here for the latter, I’d suggest Perez Hilton.

2 Responses to “What’s Behind the Increase in “Gay” Tennis Player Searches?”

  • Clm says:

    “marion bartoli lesbian, marion bartoli gay, marion bartoli lesbi, tennis gay, bartoli marion homo”

    and “dyke”?? or dykie? or lez? or lesb? or or or… others??… people are hilarious… why this obsession about the sexual orientation?…………..

  • IJelly says:

    I’m a Canadian, left-handed, gay recreational tennis player living in the US. From time to time, out of curiosity, I do check out which celebrities and athletes are Canadian or left-handed or gay. I find it extremely curious though that it’s only when I ask about at famous person’s sexuality that total strangers publicly question why anyone would care about about that particular characteristic.

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