Trailblazing by Eric Anderson

After reading Trailblazing by Eric Anderson I was blown away by the story told in the book. It is a story of self-realization, persecution, and perseverance. At first it was hard to believe that this was the same person I see in lecture twice a week. It shows the fears and terrors that closeted homosexuals go through to keep their secret, then the oppression they face after coming out. It has truly opened my eyes to the hardships gay people face when wanting to do no more than be themselves but can’t for fear of being abandoned by loved ones and ridiculed by others. Not only must the author deal with discrimination, but his team of high school track runners face being taunted, threatened, and even physically assaulted by their peers. They have to put up with just as much harassment as Anderson himself. Even though none of the athletes claim to be gay they are endlessly hazed for being a “fag team.” Through all the conflicts the team remains loyal and stands by their coach. They not only compete as a team but also deal with oppression as a team. Trailblazing is a very moving piece about heroism and is inspiring for people of all sexual preferences.

In the beginning of the story Anderson describes going through most of his childhood knowing he is gay, though at the time did not know exactly what that meant. Many points brought up in class are evident in the story. How he was forced to act like all the other boys because of how society felt about gays. Forcing himself to act “straight” and pretending to be attracted to women he becomes sucked into this highly hegemonic society. Guys have to be big, bad, and tough, and if they aren’t they are

labeled “faggots” or “fairy boys.” You can feel the awkwardness of Anderson as he talks about how he acted compared to what he actually felt.

In the beginning of his career as a track coach Anderson continues to keep his secret from everyone. Constantly making excuses for not dating girls, that where socially acceptable. Filling his time with work and studies at first as a smokescreen for his sexuality. He then aspires to become more educated and to become a health teacher.

A gay person in sports is still a big issue in this country, especially when the person is a coach of younger kids. People still view homosexuals as stereotypical promiscuous pedophilia. People think that just because a coach is gay that he is going to start hitting on all his players. There is also the ridiculous belief that since a teacher or coach is gay, they will somehow make their pupils gay or “infect” them if you will. To the reader’s surprise when Anderson comes out to his friends he is faced with little to no judgment. But once word of his sexuality spreads beyond his control not everyone is as accepting as his friends, and family. Then the issue of gays being discriminated in the workplace comes up repeatedly as he and his runners are harassed on many different occasions. Every time there is an incident Anderson would file a report to the school and every time it would be ignored. This is a prime example of discrimination of gays in the workplace. The team members would be taunted several times a day, called “faggots.” Their cars, including Anderson’s, would get keyed often, and the principal would do nothing about it.

After learning that their coach is a homosexual several members of the team became activists for gay rights. One of them went as far as starting a Gay-Straight Alliance at Huntington Beach High School were they attended, even though the kid was not gay. This by no mean improved their situation at school. For some reason it is thought that is you believe in treating homosexuals as equals you must be homosexual yourself. This ignorant logic has been around for a long time. It is not as bad as it was at one time but is still a major problem in the fight for equal rights for gays.

After long standing tension with the school’s football team it became clear to Anderson that it wouldn’t be long before physical violence would arise. This nightmare became a reality the day before graduation, the year before Anderson planned to leave Huntington Beach High School for a college level job. As a result of a short confrontation in the locker room in school there was heavy friction between one of Anderson’s senior runners, named Jerryme and a sophomore football player, named Josh. Of coarse this was started because of the homophobia of the football team and coach. Apparently the football coach didn’t want anyone else to use the locker room so “it wouldn’t get messed up.” And when the track team went to get changed the football team went on full defensive and would not let the “fag team” in. This was also ignored by the school’s administrators. Months later as Jerryme and fellow runner, Jess where chased by the football players into a residential neighborhood. Upon exiting the car Josh told the other players to restrain Jess as he ran for Jerryme. Jerryme ended up with a swollen face and a fractured jaw. This is clear evidence of homophobia to such an extreme that this kid felt

he must pound Jerryme, who was gay as far as Josh was concerned, until he was dead. For what? To show how big of a man he is. So Josh got to prove how straight he is for a while, while Jerryme gets to have five screws attached to his lower jaw for the rest of his life.

Reading this book gave me a new perspective on life. It’s inspired me to be a more tolerant person. It addresses many problems in the society caused by hegemony. It brings to light the dangerous effects of homophobia in school sports. Tackling a difficult subject, Anderson really makes a point that homophobia in sports is a serious issue and should not be taken lightly.