No one wants to live in fear. I've always been scared of saying the wrong thing. I don't sleep well. I never have. But each time I tell another person, I feel stronger and sleep a little more soundly. It takes an enormous amount of energy to guard such a big secret. I've endured years of misery and gone to enormous lengths to live a lie. I was certain that my world would fall apart if anyone knew. And yet when I acknowledged my sexuality I felt whole for the first time. I still had the same sense of humor, I still had the same mannerisms and my friends still had my back.
Openness may not completely disarm prejudice, but it's a good place to start. It all comes down to education. I'll sit down with any player who's uneasy about my coming out. Being gay is not a choice. This is the tough road and at times the lonely road. Former players like Tim Hardaway, who said "I hate gay people" (and then became a supporter of gay rights), fuel homophobia. Tim is an adult. He's entitled to his opinion. God bless America. Still, if I'm up against an intolerant player, I'll set a pretty hard pick on him. And then move on.
The most you can do is stand up for what you believe in. I'm much happier since coming out to my friends and family. Being genuine and honest makes me happy.
Thanks to Jason Collins and Dumbledore now there's two really cool gay wizards.— Travon Free (@Travon) April 29, 2013
@benshapiro: So Jason Collins is a hero because he's gay? Our standard has dropped quite a bit since Normandy.
The 30 NBA teams are not going to retire Collins's number; in fact, none of them will. He has earned his place in basketball history, but it remains to be seen just how huge a place it will prove, and his new historical status is guaranteed to minimize a very admirable playing career on the court (as even Robinson's beginnings overshadowed his Hall of Fame on-field contributions). Collins's is not the Robinson-esque heroism available only to the incredible people among us. His is the everyday-type heroism that we all can learn from. And his aims are proportionately modest. "I'm glad I'm coming out in 2013 rather than 2003," he writes. "The climate has shifted; public opinion has shifted. And yet we still have so much farther to go. Everyone is terrified of the unknown, but most of us don't want to return to a time when minorities were openly discriminated against." No, most of us don't, and one feels that most of us can, like Collins, actually make a difference toward ensuring that doesn't happen.
"Why do gay people have to come out? Gay folks can still pursue their legal rights without holding a public announcement. Let me add one other little secret...in most instances, at work, at home or at church, we already know who is gay, huh? Very few secrets here pal."
"Gay and lesbian have a over inflated view of the importance of coming out. Don't mean squat to me and most of the folks I know offer the same sentiment. Don't mean nothing..."
When I came out, in 1981, I didn't have much public support and I know I lost endorsements. But I never had to worry about losing my job. [...] For team sports athletes, this is not the case. A homophobic coach at any level -- high school, college or pros -- could keep a player from playing. Remember Rene Portland, the women's basketball coach at Penn State? She proudly boasted she would not allow a lesbian on her team. In the past, that kind of homophobia would have had support from the front office. [...]
But the times changed. Boy, did they ever change.
Any revolution starts with a small step. As I see it, this one started with Vikings punter Chris Kluwe and his R-rated (but darn smart and funny) editorial on Deadspin last year. That was a catalyst because it then became clear: Straight players were standing in support of gays in general -- and their gay teammates, whoever they might be. Those gay athletes might have been deeply closeted, but there was unspoken acknowledgement: We know you exist. Kluwe wasn't shunned or ridiculed for his stance. The tables turned. It was the homophobes who were left standing in the cold, scorned and criticized by fans and the media. How is that for a turnaround in, relatively speaking, a very short time?
A college classmate tried to persuade me to come out then and there. But I couldn't yet. My one small gesture of solidarity was to wear jersey number 98 with the Celtics and then the Wizards. The number has great significance to the gay community. One of the most notorious antigay hate crimes occurred in 1998. Matthew Shepard, a University of Wyoming student, was kidnapped, tortured and lashed to a prairie fence. He died five days after he was finally found. That same year the Trevor Project was founded. This amazing organization provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention to kids struggling with their sexual identity. Trust me, I know that struggle. I've struggled with some insane logic. When I put on my jersey I was making a statement to myself, my family and my friends.
When asked if the organizations needed to be more inclusive towards gay players, the 11-time NBA champion coach called the question "ridiculous," before noting, "There's no inclusiveness to be had."
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