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Shad Smith: The First Openly Gay Mixed Martial Artist

A New York Times profile reveals his orientation:

But most of Smith's childhood fights took place outside the ring, on the streets and at his instigation. He used to wear his hair in a mohawk as a tribute to the professional tag-team wrestlers the Road Warriors and prowl the neighborhood looking for fights. "I was just mad-dogging everyone" -- staring them down -- "until somebody said something, and then I'd put my hands up and start fighting." He said he had 46 counts of assault and battery as a juvenile. "And that's 46 counts posted on me. Can you imagine how many there actually were?"

I asked Smith why he spent so much of his youth looking for trouble. I expected some sort of clichéd, though possibly true, explanation -- a difficult childhood or a Napoleon complex. What I didn't expect him to say was, "You know, bro, the sexual-preference thing."

Smith is gay, and I know of no other professional fighter who is openly so. "I was always scared that my mom and dad would find out and wouldn't like me, and my brothers wouldn't like me," he said. "I was petrified, because I didn't want anyone to find out. And I would try to be the toughest person around. That way, no one would suspect, no one would ever say it, no one would think it."

The amount of misogyny and homophobia among MMA's hardcore fans is appalling. Worse, "the closet", for gays and lesbians, is a terrible prison that breeds confusion, sadness and severs connectivity to others. Smith's revelation is a quiet, but significant milestone if not for the sport, then certainly for an integral minority group within our society.

Smith may be the first, but he isn't the last. They are part of the community of MMA fans, promoters, writers, and fighters. We in the straight community have an obligation to welcome them without prejudice or suspicion. It's their sport, too.

HT: Project Alpha

Update [2008-3-24 17:55:57 by Luke Thomas]:: It looks like a correction is due: Shad might be the first openly homosexual male fighter.

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