When I went on Twitter earlier this morning, #timtebow and #thegayathlete were both trending and I thought to myself, “FINALLY!” But no, those hash tags had nothing to do with each other. 34-year-old Jason Collins, an NBA center and current free agent who has played for the Wizards, the Celtics and the Nets, has come out on the cover of Sports Illustrated and is now the first openly gay professional athlete in America’s four major sports league. Typing that in 2013 feels weird, because there should be openly gay pro athletes everywhere.
In a piece that may seem tl;dr-ish but is incredibly thoughtful and worth the read, Jason Collins writes about how he came out to his identical twin brother, his memaw and his mother and how the Boston Marathon bombings inspired him to come out, because life’s too short to not proudly tell everyone that you love peen.
The recent Boston Marathon bombing reinforced the notion that I shouldn’t wait for the circumstances of my coming out to be perfect. Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully? When I told Joe [as in Joe Kennedy, his roommate at Stanford) a few weeks ago that I was gay, he was grateful that I trusted him. He asked me to join him in 2013. We’ll be marching on June 8.
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.
And he added:
My maternal grandmother was apprehensive about my plans to come out. She grew up in rural Louisiana and witnessed the horrors of segregation. During the civil rights movement she saw great bravery play out amid the ugliest aspects of humanity. She worries that I am opening myself up to prejudice and hatred. I explained to her that in a way, my coming out is preemptive. I shouldn’t have to live under the threat of being outed. The announcement should be mine to make, not TMZ’s.
The hardest part of this is the realization that my entire family will be affected. But my relatives have told me repeatedly that as long as I’m happy, they’re there for me. I watch as my brother and friends from college start their own families. Changing diapers is a lot of work, but children bring so much joy. I’m crazy about my nieces and nephew, and I can’t wait to start a family of my own.
This is big news for the gay community. This is big news for the sports world. And it’s also huge news for future gay groupies who see Vanessa Bryant as their icon and want to marry a millionaire ball player and star in a Vh1 reality show called Basketball Husbands. It’s big news for everyone!
And Jason Collins gets another gold star for doing the hand-to-face pose on the cover.