London 2012: Nathan Adrian Wins Swimming Gold, Matthew Mitcham Plays the Waiting Game

U.S. swimmer Nathan Adrian celebrates after scoring gold on Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012 at the 2012 London Olympics.

Another Olympics is taking place, and I can’t believe that some of the posts I wrote four years ago are still getting tons of hits.  Two of my favorites from the Beijing 2008 Olympics are still going strong.  Nathan Adrian won gold yesterday by beating out the favored James Magnussen of Australia in the 100-meter freestyle.  If you want more of Nathan, follow him on twitter (@nathanadrian).

Out diver, Matthew Mitcham, from Australia, who won gold in the 10-meter platform in 2008, is still waiting his turn to compete, but he is already in London and tweeting big time.  His event start on Friday, the 10th.  He’s a fun guy to follow (@matthew_mitcham) and frequently add pics to his tweets.  He’s recently shown his musical talent by posting a video on youtube. 

What I wrote about Mitcham four years ago still holds true.  Read it here.

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How Language Bullies, But When It Might Be OK To Say “That’s So Gay”

“Say Something” seems to be Australia’s equivalent of the “It Gets Better” Project, a youtube campaign that was started Dan Savage, a Seattle columnist, after the rash of gay teen suicides last year.  “Say Something” has been set up as part of the 2011 Sydney Mardi Gras, one of the largest gay events anywhere in the world.

Matthew Mitcham, an out, gold medal diving champion in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, has created his video, short though it is, for the Say Something project.  In it he advocates for eliminating the use of the phrase “It’s so gay” in a negative way.

Fortunately, I don’t think I’ve ever heard this phrase used, except maybe on TV.  I’m not much around the age group, teens or younger, that probably uses this phrase.  However, I know I wouldn’t like it if I were a gay kid in middle or high school and had to hear it all the time.  Frankly, there are far worse words as derogatory syn0nyms for gay people, when they are trying to demean either gay people or even others that are not gay.

For the most part, kids use these stronger perjoratives because they got them from hearing adults say them.  When I was a kid, the “n”-word was the harshest, but  most often used, word that we called each other on the playground.  Strange though it sounds, we could use that word without admonishment, but knew better than to use “real” swear words, which today are commonplace in movies and the music on the radio.  There’s nothing surprising thses days about hearing them in so many rap and hip-hop songs, where they sort of get bleeped out.  But when I hear them come in songs like Enrique Iglesias’ latest hit, I get uncomfortable.

We used the “n”-word, not because we had ever met even one Black person, but because we heard the word at home.  “That’s so gay” seems to be somewhat like that.  The kids that use the phrase aren’t directly trying to be offensive to gay people because they are just saying something like “That’s so lame,” which was used not so long ago, and I expect, still is used by some kids.

And speaking of “lame”, what if the phrase being used were “That’s so disabled” or “That’s so physically challenged”?  Most people probably would find that more offensive than “That’s so gay.”  However, when”That’s retarded” was so popular, there weren’t too many negative ripples.

When it comes to being politically correct (though really I think it has more to do with civility than politics), it’s hard to keep up.  I seem to remember Lyndon Johnson using nigras (which doesn’t sound that different from the “n” word), and he was the President who signed the major civil rights laws in the mid-1960s.  Colored People was once OK; there’s still the NAACP.  Then there’s still the question of African-American (or Afro-American) or Black.

There’s a similar problem with people and newspapers using the term homosexual.  In fact, it has a very specific, somewhat clinical or academic meaning, but most of the time when used outside of certain fields of study, homosexual come with a negative connotation for labeling people, in a way that “colored” was once used by whites, when they knew that there was a more appropriate word.

Just like many use homosexual as a way of emphasizing the “sexual” aspect, as if that the only quality that characterizes us, they also employ the word to hit other people’s buttons that its the “same” sex.  And, “you know, doing with the same sex, well, that’s something so bad, because, you know, the preacher said it in church, and it’s in the Bible, you know.”

So it’s not are far stretch to the same negativity inherent in “That’s so gay.”  The negative connotation from homosexual is carried over to the word “gay.”

It’s really not much different than expressions that have applied to other groups.  I grew up with people using the expression of “jewing someone down,” not having any idea that it came from the negative stereotype of Jewish people.  I’m sure there are kids out there who, when comparing the sizes of dips on their ice cream cones, are screaming, “I got gypped (or jipped),” having no idea that the word came from negative stereotype of gypsies cheating or robbing people.

There are two sides to these pejoratives.  On the one hand, they make the language colorful and precise.  With the internet and other forms of technology, the English language is already being “dummied down” with all its LOLs and other shortcuts.   (Oops, can I say “dummied down”?)  On the other hand, words can hurt, and we know it.  People, especially adults, who use these words to belittle others know what they are doing. 

Newspapers, politicians, and preachers who use the word homosexual know that gay people don’t like to be called that, but they do it anyway.  In reality, it’s just a subtle way to bully.  Isn’t there a verse in the Bible that says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”?  Doesn’t that mean civility and respect?

It all comes back to civility, doesn’t it?

If people want to use the line “That’s so gay,” they should really use it with the meaning “That’s so creative” because that’s a positive stereotype of gay people.  Think of all creativity put out by hair stylists (let’s go with those straight-thinking stereotypes), artists, playwrights, and composers.  Let’s don’t forget to mention Michalangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Alexander the Great or some current creative gay people like Elton John, Ricky Martin, or Ellen Degeneres.

So maybe when (or if) you read something on here that makes you think a bit, you’ll say, “That’s so gay.”  But, hey, you gotta put the right tone in your voice or it won’t work.

Delhi Commonweath Games: Matthew Mitcham Gets Silver in 1-Meter Springboard, Looks Forward to Wednesday

Only because of listening to the BBC on KUHF ( Houston’s local public radio station) in the morning on my way to work did I hear about the Commonwealth Games 2010, taking place in Delhi, India.

Diving Determination--Matthew Mitcham at the Dehli Games (SMH photo)

The event is a sports competition among many of the countries which were once under the control of the British crown and takes place every four years.  The sports include many of those seen at the Olympics, but some appear to be those that would go with a “spot of tea”, like cricket and lawn bowling.

I was curious to see if Matthew Mitcham, Australia’s gay diving sensation, would be taking part, and, indeed, he is.  In fact, in today’s 1-meter springboard, he took the silver medal to Canada’s Alexandre Despatie. Mitcham will compete again on Wednesday in the 10-meter platform, the event which put his name on the map with the Olympic Gold Medal win in 2008 in Beijing.

Update (Wed. Oct. 13th):  Matthew Mitcham finished second in the 10-meter platform dive to England’s 16-year-old Thomas Daley.  According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian “scored 509.15 points to claim his fourth silver of the Games and finish shy of 16-year-old world champion Tom Daley (538.35 points), whose sublime performance included one dive that earned perfects 10s across the board.”

Watch Matthew in a promo for the Dehli games:

Catch All of the Action at the Gay Games VIII in Cologne; Matthew Mitcham and Other Star Athletes Add to the Limelight

Michelle Ferris, Matthew Mitcham, Leigh Ann Naidoo, and John Amechi meet the press in Cologne.

Matthew Mitcham and several other star athletes have arrived in Cologne, Germany to be part of the Gay Games, which are set to start, today, July 31st.  Mitcham, from Australia and gold medal diver in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, joined former NBA player John Amechi from Great Britain, cyclist Michelle Ferris also from Australia, and beach volleyball player Leigh Ann Naidoo from South Africa to be part of the sporting event, which has gay athletes from all over the globe for the 2010 Gay Games VIII in Germany.

Mitcham hits Cologne with the "scruffy look".

While Mitcham won’t be competing in the games, he will be giving an exhibition of his diving skills from the 10-meter board.

More than 10,000 participants are expected to parade into the RheinEnergie Stadium later today for the opening ceremonies, which will be headlined by singer Taylor Dayne performing “Facing a Miracle,” which is the theme song for this year’s games.  Check it out here.  I’m sure she’ll have the whole stadium dancin’.

Catch live streaming video and everything else that’s happening at Gay Games VIII here.

William Yang’s Photographs of Matthew Mitcham on Exhibit

Matthew Mitcham as captured by photographer William Yang

Not only are paintings of the popular Beijing Olympic gold-medalist on exhibit (see previous post), now images of the popular diver from Australia by photographer William Yang are on display at Maunsell Wickes at Barry Stern Galleries in Sydney.  Check out more of Yang’s photos of Mitcham at the Maunsell Wickes site.  If you’re actually in Sydney, the exhibit of Yang’s photos of Mitcham runs until December 24th in the galleries in Paddington.  An interview with the photographer discussing working with Mitcham can be found at the Australian website samesame, which just announced their Top 25 Most Influetial Gay and Lesbian Australians.  The list, of course, included Mitcham.

Matthew Mitcham’s Skin on Canvass, Now Displayed in the Australian Portrait Gallery

Back in the news again is Matthew Mitcham, not because of his diving feats, but because noted Australian artist Ross Watson has stroked the 2008 Olympic Diving Champion’s likeness onto canvass.  Watson, whose paintings place popular male personages into his take on Italian masterpieces, has painted the image of Mitcham into the backdrop of Venetian painter Ricci’s “Fall of Phaeton”.  The painting is now being exhibited in the Australian National Portrait Gallery.

You can see more Watson pieces of Mitcham and others at his homepage www.rosswatson.com and Watson’s photos of Mitcham, which he used to prepare for the painting.  Check for more on this at advocate.com.

Britain’s Hope for the 2012 Olympics Outshines Mitcham at World Diving Championships in Rome

Fifteen-year-old Thomas Daley of Great Britain wins the 10-meter at the World Diving Championships

Fifteen-year-old Thomas Daley of Great Britain wins the 10-meter at the World Diving Championships

For all those enamored with the golden boy of the Beijing Olypmics, out diver, Matthew Mitcham, there may be a new name in town. 

The new guy hails from Great Britain and is just 15 years old.  He’s Thomas Daley, and today the young man defeated a couple of Chinese divers and Australian Mitcham to win the gold in the 10-meter platform at the World Diving Championships at the Stadio Del Nuoto in Rome.

According to KXMB News, “Daley received three perfect 10s and three 9.5s for his final dive Tuesday, barely rippling the water as he sliced through. His winning total was 539.85 points.  Then he watched his main rivals falter on their final attempts.  Qiu Bo of China had a poor entry and finished second with 532.20.

Mitchem, winner of the gold in Beijing, dropped to fourth after botching his dive.

China’s Zhou Luxin took bronze with 530.55, just ahead of Mitcham at 529.50. American David Boudia was sixth.”

Mitcham had this to say about Daley in an article in a Sydney Morning Herald article,  “I really do [support him]. He is a very talented and very well-mannered, polite and friendly young man. . . . I think he could take over the world if he wanted to. He is something I have never seen before. I respect him.”

Britains seem all agog over their new diving star and are hoping for a gold medal in diving in the 2012 Olympics, which will be held in London.

Mitcham fails to medal in the 10-meter dive.

Mitcham fails to medal in the 10-meter dive.

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See more links to Matthew Mitcham here.