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.  

1 comment:

happyjulie said...

Free this is WONDERFUL! You always give me chills. You are so generous with your willingness to share your personal experience, and so compassionate and appreciative towards others. LOVE LOVE LOVE