Monday, April 29, 2013

Jason's Courage

I'm not the basketball fan I once was, but I still very clearly remember meeting Jason Collins way back when.  I was 17 and had just seen him play in the Final Four, which, like, must have totally, been,  like, the coolest thing...ever.  Anyway, what made him memorable was his legitimate down-to-earth manner "Hey dude, I'm from North Hollywood and went to high school at Harvard-Westlake.  What about you?" as opposed to the "No, really, it's not a big deal," humblebragging that I've come to loathe in celebrities, pseudo-celebrities, and other self-important types since.

Anyway, one of the first things that came to mind today when I heard he had come out was that it was a courageous move.  I don't use that word lightly, and in fact don't use it much at all.

Collins is getting a ton of support from current teammates, former teammates, future Hall of Famers (i.e. Kobe Bryant), Chelsea Clinton, and everyone in between.  So in that sense it's no big deal.  But by coming out as a professional athlete, when many fellow ballplayers are not so accepting (even if they will be wise enough to keep their thoughts to themselves), he is subjecting himself to certain inevitable taunts, judgements, and stares, not to mention possibly-innocent-but-stupid personal questions that no one would ever ask a straight athlete.

Someday it won't be a big deal.  But today is not that day.  By coming out while still in uniform, Collins has made it easier for #2, #3, and so on.  The candid, matter-of-fact, apolitical approach he took with the SI interview was a perfect first step -- not just for him, but for gay athletes and future gay athletes everywhere.

By contrast, I'm getting tired of politicians (esp. conservative ones*) cloaking themselves in the language of courage and heroism by coming out in favor of gay rights, to include marriage rights.

The reason why?

As a TIME magazine cover recently declared, the battle for gay rights is essentially over.  Yes, embers from the battle are still glowing, and gays can't marry everywhere, and they can even legally be discriminated against in 34 states.  But that's not the point.  The point is that the tide has turned, and it ain't turning back.  Look at support for gay rights broken down by age groups, and the demographics are too powerful to miss.

When the next Senator Portman comes out to support gay rights, the question should be more to the tune of "What took you so long?" and less to the tune of "How did you muster the courage?"

Being pro-gay rights before it was cool is noble.  That's where Bill Weld gets serious props.

But thinking you're somehow anomalous or brave because you think gays should be able to do whatever straights can do just isn't all that special.  In fact, I bet you that if you sampled thirty-something conservative white males in the Northeast it would be rarer to find DOMA supporters than marriage equality supporters.

Supporting a position when it can land you in physical harm (i.e. marching in Selma) or when it can bring you professional harm (i.e. Gary Johnson's position on drugs while serving in NM) is noble.  Taking the popular side at all times (i.e. Bill Clinton signing DOMA in office, and then condemning it in 2013) is not.  See the difference?  One takes courage, and the other is kind of like a wingtips-on-the-podium, impassioned speech in the City Council chamber that precedes a clearly-developing 9-0 vote.**

* I could've gone after either side there, but chose to single out conservatives because I think we're more guilty of thinking we're somehow being *special* or *anomalous* by supporting gay rights.  We're not.  Joe Biden isn't special for calling for marriage equality in a late-night TV interview, Joe Kennedy isn't special for marching in the Gay Rights parade...but neither is any GOP 'leader' or 'thinker' who 'lays it on the line' to say that gays deserve equality.

** A Home Run Derby: (free cuts for the fences with meatballs coming across the plate and no one trying to get you out).  A hypothetical example: "A resolution to declare that the City supports immigrants from all backgrounds."  


Renee said...

Greg, OK this is what drives me nuts. There is the back story. I know people who happen to be gay, they may have tried dating in high school/college the opposite sex and it just didn't work out before just acknowledging they didn't like the opposite sex.

But Jason Collins was in a relationship with a woman for eight years!

From TMZ

"Carolyn Moos (who played a few seasons in the WNBA) dated Collins for seven years and was engaged to him until they broke up in 2009 ... after Collins pulled the plug on their wedding.

Carolyn tells TMZ, she never once suspected he was gay, so the news is shocking. She says Collins eventually revealed everything last weekend -- just days before his big announcement -- and said that his homosexuality was the real reason he ended things with her.

Carolyn -- who's back on the hunt for Mr. Right -- tells us, "It's very emotional for me as a woman to have invested 8 years in my dream to have a husband, soul mate, and best friend in him. So this is all hard to understand."


His homosexuality wasn't a reason for the breakup, simply he didn't like her. He was capable of being in a heterosexual relationship for eight years. You can use sexual orientation after a few dates as a reason, but not after almost a decade.

I'm in a vowed and civilly recognized mutually monogamous heterosexual marriage, I could be simply tell my husband I'm coming out bisexual/polyamourous or whatever accept me. I'm coming out~! And everyone in my Facebook feed will praising me. Yes, I've seen this happen with a married man with two kids, who then left his wife and moved 30 miles away from Lowell to be with his 'boo boo'. Sorry, he should of at least got a two-family, so he could be a dad and help shovel out the snow!

This is the problem with sexual orientation and these labels. They're meaningless. I don't ask people their orientation, I don't even ask if they're in a relationship or not. Don't ask, and only tell me if you think it is appropriate and necessary. If that special person is really special, you're going to tell and share it with me.

The New Englander said...

Renee -- Fair point about the back story -- the chattering classes are forgetting that a woman basically devoted 8 years of her life to someone, and is now left to start again.

I'd still point out that by coming out, Collins helps pave the way for gay people to be accepted in the future, so these sorts of things will be less likely to happen -- there will be less pressure for people to live the lie.