Three cheers for our neighbours to the west, as the Sydney Convicts take home the Bingham Cup!
What’s this all about, you say? Why, although this may appear to be just a sporting event, it’s also an invaluable exercise in humanity and character.
Let’s start at the beginning. The Bingham Cup is a tournament for gay rugby teams. See, we’re not all just athletic supporters like me. There are many, many gay rugby players around the word, very fit and gifted ones at that. Every two years teams converge for a friendly, supportive battle on the chosen field, this year in Manchester, UK. (It’s also important to note that many straight players join in because at the tournament’s core is the chance for some really great amateur competition.)
However, these hard-fought games don’t just celebrate the sport, in all its stocky, muddy glory. They’re also a bi-annual chance for the world to remember a hero.
For those who don’t know, and many in New Zealand may not because it’s not quite your history, Mark Bingham was a very handsome, outgoing, loving, smart man who led the charge on Flight 93 that inevitably rerouted that makeshift missile from its unimaginable target to a barren Pennsylvanian field on September 11, 2001. Oh, and he was gay.
That’s right, a gay man helped save The White House, all its treasures, the lives within and all it stands for.
Out of the ashes and grief rose an event that lifted away the sadness and helped polish the world with robust honesty. The Bingham Cup honours Mark by highlighting the sport he loved and this rugged facet of our community.
The value of The Bingham Cup is so much more than grass and grunts. This is a gathering of men who are generally beyond the stereotype, at least the one gays are most generally known for.
I cannot be the only person reading this who watches TV or movies with a cringe when there are gay characters involved. I sometimes even walk away. I’ll say it – I can’t watch Modern Family. Why? It is still too easy for our reputation as wimpy, emotional powder-kegs to be propagated. It feels like we’re just entertainment, the jesters of our time. It’s more acceptable these days for every show to have at least one token gay, but I’d take ten times fewer sightings of gays on TV in exchange for more robust, masculine, diverse versions of who we are.
Before you start barking a defence of the effeminate, hold your breath. Everyone has the right to be who they are, regardless of how stiff your wrist is or how many show tunes you know, but the ball throws the other way too. There are countless guys spread throughout this country and world who are not your cookie-cutter; who see these examples and think “I am not that, but I am still lured in by cock.” They might be young or have lived sheltered, rural lives, but to them the world is possibly just that black and white, in which case things don’t add up. If they internalise this disconnect and believe there’s something wrong with them, well, there’s no saying how far the damage can spread. I could go there, but if you think about it a very clear and dark picture can unfold.
This brings me back to a GAY RUGBY TOURNAMENT. Here is what some would call the blokiest sport on Earth, celebrated as church from the Cape to the Bluff, and gay men play it…very well. They’re not afraid to charge the line, get their noses bashed (and bash in return) and take on the world with strength and pride. All the attributes of the young man for which the tournament was named.
Perhaps some day this battle of gay brawn will get more exposure and with its growing reputation for being an upstanding opportunity to honour genuine human valour, it may some day burrow its way into greater society. As mainstream acceptance evolves, minds might expand to see gays for being more than what current mainstream entertainment would shovel. But right here, last weekend, the brave players who mucked it up in Manchester were our first line of offense, pushing open the door of understanding to show we’re so much more than easy stereotypes.
I think Mark would be proud.
| Leif Wauters