So earlier tonight I completed my 91st Peloton trek—a 30-minute pop ride with an instructor named Cody Rigsby.
The experience got me to thinking of my boyhood in Mahopac, N.Y., and 1980s rural perceptions of homosexuality.
Or, put different: When I grew up, you couldn’t be gay.
Which sounds weird, right? One doesn’t choose to be or not to be gay. You are or you’re not. Period.
And yet, it wasn’t really an option. In my turf (and in many turfs across America), being gay was being a fudge packer. A homo. A queer. It was an easy insult—”What are you, a fag?” and “You gonna go to prison and find some soap on a rope?” It meant you were soft. A sissy. A guy who missed a big tackle for the football team? Gay. A boy who liked ballet? Gay. On and on it went. And while I didn’t use the words as slang, I certainly never spoke up to protest; certainly never felt compelled to show those who actually were gay (and closeted) that it wasn’t OK.
Truth be told, I think people were simply afraid of the unknown. I remember the old debate about gay marriage often considered the fate of the child—”What if [gasp!] he winds up gay, too?”
Cody Rigsby, Peloton instructor, is openly gay, and proud of it. He wears the identity (figuratively) on his sleeve and literally on his Instagram profile (“Opinionated homosexual”). He speaks freely and enthusiastically about being a gay man in 2020; about his likes and dislikes and highs and lows. He posts photos of his handsome boyfriend (Andres Alfaro) because, well, why shouldn’t he?
Oh, one more thing: Cody is a friggin’ awesome Peloton instructor. Absolute awesome. His musical knowledge is world class. His boy band knowledge is terrifying. He has introduced me to a shitload of songs that are outside my age bracket (don’t sleep on Dua Lipa), and pushes riders to their maximum effort while infusing equal parts joy.
And what led me to writing this post is that, truly, I wish we had Cody Rigsbys in the 1980s. I wish we had proud, open, energetic, enthusiastic gay men and women who could be themselves and not worry about being tarred and feathered. I think about a friend from high school, who didn’t come out until years later, and all the pretending he had to go through. I think about all the adults who needed to see the love and joy of an openly gay man like Cody; who needed to learn that the correct answer to, “What if my son is gay?” is “That’d be great.”
There are still, obviously, large numbers of homophobes fucking up this country.
But it’s hard to imagine one watching Cody Rigsby at work and maintaining such a sinister outlook.