Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Coming Out Note of Thanks to Jason Collins

I've used this blog in the past to talk about the fear I had about playing varsity football when I was in high school and in college.  I felt that it was very clear that, as a gay guy, I couldn't risk that truth coming out.  So I lied about my interest in playing.  I made it clear that the books always came first.  I was asked each of my three years of high school to join the football team, and I refused.  I used the same tactic in college.  I think that the Athletic Director was particularly upset that I didn't play, since I would have been one of the biggest players on the team.

I've used this blog to talk about the time I finally did embrace that dream of playing football.  It was when I was working on my PH.D, and some of the other history graduate students wanted to form an intramural football team. I'd come out of the closet by then, so I wasn't worried about what my teammates would think.  They all saw what others saw:  a big dude who would be great on the line.  So I played center for four years, and my team won the intramural championships in three of those four years (we were the runners up in that fourth year).  I also got the biggest kick out of the fact that when another team would hurl anti-gay comments to us (as far as I knew, no one clocked me as the gay one), my team would actually tell them that there was a gay member on our team, and that none of us appreciated hearing that bullshit.  Those were four of the happiest years of my life.  I was deep in the weeds in history, and I was playing center with a group of really good friends.

So I can understand what Jason Collins must have gone through.  I can understand the fear.  I can understand the lies.  I can understand the anxiety.  But I also can understand the sheer relief he must be feeling right now.  Don't let anyone fool you; it takes real courage to come out of the closet.  

Mr. Collins, enjoy breathing in that sense of freedom.  Pay no attention to those who will present words of hatred, because haters are always going to hate.  Please know that your singular act has helped at least one young man out there reconcile his love of a game with his homosexuality.  Please know that you're being a Black man is also extremely important in this mix.  So often, Black folks are portrayed as the most homo-hating community ever known to man (which is bullshit), but there is a real struggle for many within the Black community to deal with the GLBT folks who also happen to be Black.  I know that your coming out has sparked a many conversations in barber and beauty shops across the nation, and that is a very good thing.

Finally, I will add that as important as Jason Collins' coming out is, we should not forget that Baylor University's Brittney Griner came out as well.  Griner is one of the top three draft picks for the WNBA this year.  So the current faces for out gay athletes are those of a Black man and a Black woman.  THAT is sweet justice.

UPDATE:  05.01.13

I was very happy to see Rod McCullom's article (please check out his blog, Rod 2.0) for Ebony Magazine on Collins' coming out, and it's potential impact for the broader Black community.  This really is a big story.  

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Sense of Palpable National Pride

I woke up this morning to the news that New Zealand was the latest nation to vote in marriage equality.  However, I didn't expect to see what I saw in the article I was reading.  The people gathered in their parliament began singing.  Later, I found out that the song is called "Pokarekare Ana," and it is a traditional Maori love song (and the unofficial national anthem).  I was moved to tears listening to that expression of pure joy.  I was moved to tears to know that the GLBT community in New Zealand knew, in that moment, that its government had its back.  I was also moved to tears, because I know that I would never see something like that happen in our legislature.  So, I offer a hearty congratulations to the Kiwis.  You've made many, many people around the world very, very happy today.

Monday, April 1, 2013

What You Say to Me is Still "Paper Thin"

I know that the Republican National Committee has conducted its autopsy, and the report is out.  As I started reading through it (and I am not finished), one song came to mind immediately:  "Paper Thin" by MC Lyte.  It is a classic rap single about cheating.  The video shows Lyte going on a hunch, and deciding to get out of her car and hit the subway to clear her head.  And it just so happens that she sees her man on the train with two ladies, and the rap begins.

As I listened to the lyrics, I have to admit that the RNC could easily have been her man, and the two ladies the base of the party.  Essentially, Lyte doesn't believe what her man has been telling her, and she lets him know how she deserves to be treated.  And I am not sure I am ready to believe that the RNC is serious about its outreach, because  all I hear, like a broken record, is that the GOP's "policies are sound," and that it's just a problem with messaging.

Actually, that's not true.  If the GOP really wants to engage with the many, many, many demographic groups that it lost in 2012, then some policy changes will be inevitable.  Until the RNC is really ready to do that, then all that they will say will be just "Paper Thin."