The Heteronormativity Of How The Media Talks About Sexual Identity

Yesterday, Brittney Griner did an interview in which she talked about being gay. In it, she said this about “coming out”: “I wouldn’t say I was hiding or anything like that. I’ve always been open about who I am and my sexuality. So, it wasn’t hard at all.”

Translation: Griner does not consider herself as ever having been in the closet. This is not her coming out. Or as Dom Cosentino wrote at Deadspin, “Brittney Griner Outs Herself As Already Out.

And yet, this morning when I went to Feedly to read through the hundreds of sports headlines, I came across this one for ESPN:

The screenshot of my Feedly RSS reader has an ESPN article that is titled "Griner comes out, says ''just be who you are''".

The original headline for ESPN read that Griner came out despite the fact that she specifically says in the interview that she wasn’t “in.”

When I clicked on the link, it took me to this page:

The screen shot of ESPN highlight the URL which still has a slug reading "brittney-griner-comes". It also highlights that they updated the post recently. The title now reads, "Brittney Griner discusses being gay."

The slug indicates the original title and it was updated to a new title: “Brittney Griner discusses being gay,” which is much more accurate.

At least ESPN recognized the difference between their original title and the one that there is now, the latter honoring Griner and her experience.

BUT…

The media is bad about talking about a person who is openly gay and who does not consider themselves having ever been in the closet. This is really a symptom of the heterosexist way in which our entire society talks about people’s sexual lives: one is assumed to be heterosexual unless they choose to indicate otherwise (an incredibly flat way to talk about sexuality). As many people have said eloquently before, because of this assumption, someone who is not heterosexual has to constantly “come out” to people throughout their life even if they, like Griner, don’t consider themselves “in.”

Cosentino’s headline reveals this so well. Him saying that Griner “came out” about being out reveals the way we couch any discussion of non-heterosexual people in a language of “coming out.” It centers the heterosexual reader and others everyone else in the process.

ESPN’s shift from “coming out” to “discusses being gay” shows that there is a way to talk about Griner without relying on the “coming out” framework. And it shows that ESPN recognizes this, which is cool.

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2 thoughts on “The Heteronormativity Of How The Media Talks About Sexual Identity

  1. Interesting, to the media you’re not “out” unless you made a big deal “coming out” moment. Sigh. ONE DAY this won’t be the case, I keep hoping…

  2. Pingback: Weekend Reading | Backslash Scott Thoughts

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