Sunday, May 05, 2013

Coming out after Collins

NBA player Jason Collins came out in a Sports Illustrated cover story last week, the first openly gay pro in any of the major sports. It was a brave move, of course, and to be applauded certainly. The encouraging thing is that he wasn't met with the undiluted bigotry that Jackie Robinson encountered; it wasn't even that much of an event—sure, it was newsworthy, but there wasn't a backlash in the sports community. The Daily Show even lampooned how it wasn't treated as such a big deal, suggesting that society's acceptance of homosexuality is (to borrow the phrase) out of the closet.

Prior to coming out, Jason Collins was unlikely to be a household name. That's not suggesting he did so as a calculated ploy for fame (I don't believe that was why he did so); it is merely the reality of what has happened in the wake of what he did.

But is it so bad that he gets the highlight given that this should contribute to bringing this vestige of latent homophobia—professional male sports—out of its dark ages (so to speak)?

I'd say that's far more worthy of being known by the general public (rather than merely by NBA fans) than anything any Kardashian has ever done (or not done, as it were).


The reality is that some player will be the second to come out, and some player will be the third, etc.; Collins will be remembered as the semi-Jackie Robinson in this particular arena, but those others will get the Larry Doby notoriety (and likely even that will take some looking up), but to get to the point where no one even blinks at an openly gay player in the same way a player being African-Americans is accepted there will need to be that second, third, fourth, etc., players being open to admitting publicly that they are.

The way things are going, each subsequent gay player to come out will be a bit less noteworthy (that's simply the way we are; novelty wears off and things become normalized). By the time the twelfth pro player announces his sexual orientation thusly it may not even be remembered; perhaps that won't even warrant an obscure trivia question.

Obviously any closeted pro athlete deserves to decide when he is ready to follow Collins' lead, but to the extent that one who helps break down that wall deserves to be given that renown, it seems clear that the window for garnering that has something of a closing date.

Stick with me here. What's going to be (in its way) sad is the first player to come out after the public reaches the point where it's no longer noteworthy. But probably that player will know better than to expect it by then (to the extent any of them will expect it).

So if you play pro sports and are gay, now is the time. Not only to show support for the movement, but to get your due while it is still a movement and not merely an unremarkable aspect of our daily lives.

The sooner this is boring the sooner everyone can be open about who they love without feeling the need to hide it.

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