Jason Collins, “I’m Gay.”: What This Means to Me

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Published: April 29, 2013
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On a historic day in professional sports, some of the writers here at Hornets247.com take time to reflect on  Jason Collins’ story.

Michael McNamara: I have had a different reaction to today’s events than most I have heard from so far, and it has been a reawakening of sorts for me personally. Upon hearing the news that Jason Collins came out to Sports Illustrated, becoming the first active player in major professional sports to officially declare he was gay, I will admit that I kind of blew it off. I did this because I am surrounded by a specific kind of person in my everyday life. I won’t apologize for the fact that I consider myself an academic, as I both attend post-grad classes and teach/coach at a very liberal high school currently, but this simple fact has apparently left me out of the loop. Frankly, I do not know one person, of the nearly one-hundred I interact with on a semi-regular basis, that is not accepting, or at the very least, tolerant, of homosexuals.

I brushed off today’s announcement because, in my world, this is not news. It would be no more newsworthy for someone to come out as homosexual amongst my friends and acquaintances, than it would be for another to announce that they were getting a puppy. In fact, the puppy would probably come with more shock and questioning. But as I read articles on Collins, the reaction, and the reaction to the reaction, all I had to do was scroll down to the comments section to be awoken from my ignorant slumber. I will not post the comments or tweets that I have seen today, because they do not deserve to be specifically acknowledged, but I will admit that they have been fairly significant in number, and it has caused me to rethink whether or not this country is truly as progressive as we would all like to believe it is in the year 2013.

That is the true impact of this announcement for me personally. It has reminded me that this battle is far from being won. While it is far more socially acceptable to support the LGBT community, and far less acceptable to suppress that community than it ever was, the truth of the matter is that there is still a ridiculous amount of ignorance and hate for a group that has been oppressed in a country that prides itself on providing all its citizens with freedom and equality. For me, this is not a day that I remember as a step forward for the LGBT community, but rather it will be a day that serves to remind me that I need to do my part to educate the uneducated. Because of the community that I belong to, I ignorantly thought that I no longer had to advocate for this group. Some of the reaction to Jason Collins announcement has reminded me that I can not stay silent on this issue in my private life, and for that I have two words for all those homophobic, ignorant, and cowardly posters – THANK YOU.

Mason Ginsberg: I agree with a good bit of what Michael wrote, but I do have one thing to add. I think that it is important to distinguish between two very different types of dissenting opinions that have been voiced in response to Jason Collins coming out today. The hate due to simply being different is a type of reaction which is truly regrettable, and as McNamara noted, those responses do not deserve to be individually acknowledged, but instead merely labeled as ignorant. The other type of dissent, however, appears to come from more of a religious inspiration. While disagreeing with Collins’ lifestyle choice for this reason is understandable and acceptable, it is important not to let disagreement fuel hostility.

Throughout the day, I have read responses from people who appear to be offended by the fact that this story is garnering so much attention. I find this response truly ironic, because if it weren’t for the lack of public acceptance for the openly gay community, it wouldn’t receive much attention at all. Every single human being is more than entitled to their own specific beliefs as long as it does not harm the livelihood of others, and those beliefs should not result in suffering due to negative external reactions. I view Collins’ courageous disclosure as another step towards becoming a society in which we are free to live whatever lifestyle that we choose without any sort of backlash. This isn’t about religion; it’s about freedom.

Jason Calmes: This issue is complicated to me, but not in the ways I see it being described.

First, there is a large amount of accelerant poured onto to this fire by the mass media. I’m not talking about some weird agenda some posit that ties these rival companies. I just mean that any issue that will get a reaction will get talked about because that gets clicks or `cred’ or whatever, and that somehow turns into happiness for someone. So it’s a big deal because many people, for whatever reason, will react to the story as presented and other people know that. Since the person involved has a job in sports, it’s a sports story.

Second, this is a personal component of this man’s life. It was true yesterday and the world is really no different. The data suggests that other athletes in the four major stick-and-ball American sports are not 100% heterosexual either, and that was just as true yesterday as it is today and will be tomorrow. This man is known for what he does in his job and that that job is on tv. If he didn’t make money at it and we couldn’t see it and gain pleasure from it, no one would care about his dunks or whatever. Why does this one component of his personal life intrigue us? That’s a statement about us, not him.

What is complicated, as I see it, is how this affects the systems in which is resides: his family, his friends, his union, his fanbase, the LGBT community. Will this `allow’ someone else to announce their sexuality, whatever that may be? How will they be perceived: as a copy-cat, as a brother-in-arms (the sports of which we speak are all male-populated), a less of a hero? Will people feel lied to? Will people feel closer to him? Will people wonder “why now?” “What took so long?”

And on and on.

We can pretend it’s just a game or just a job, but that job happens in real life, in a cultural institution in our society. This fact about Mr. Collins, then, does intersect with our lives. We can not pretend that it does not, but it does. It may not matter to us in the slightest . . . but something else might? Then what? What else might be true that would cause us to react? Positively? Negatively? What does this say about `us’ as individuals and as members of so many systems and tribes and groups?

Nietzsche speaks much about the idea of truth and the nature of man. The following, from Beyond Good and Evil, has always stuck with me from my younger and more vulnerable years:

Something might be true although at the same time harmful and dangerous in the highest degree; indeed, it could pertain to the fundamental nature of existence that a complete knowledge of it would destroy one – so that the strength of the spirit could be measured by how much ‘truth’ it could take, more clearly, to what degree it needed it attenuated, veiled, sweetened, blunted, falsified.

I’ll include the alluded-to words of Fitzgerald through Nick Carraway:

“Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”

That’s what today meant to us. Tell us, what did today mean to you?

7 comments
mateor
mateor

My highschool teammate was roommates with him and his twin at their college frat house, so I always took note when I saw he'd joined a new team.

Nola86
Nola86

Can we stop with this media circus on this guy People acted like he split the atom he just came out who gives a damn.

JJacob
JJacob

It seems as though many people don't fully grasp the fact that homosexuality is something one is born with... A preference that is in the nature of the person. It's really sad how people can be so ignorant and intolerant. I looked at the ESPN comment boards and couldn't believe what I was seeing.

Nola86
Nola86

it's not about ignorance it's about how people feel.To some of you it's a crime for someone to have an opinion on this issue.You talk about their kind you lose your job.If you they had their way anyone who have an opinion on their kind would be jailed.

Michael McNamara
Michael McNamara

I realize it is my fault for not being clear on what I think is unacceptable, hence I get the frustration from Nola86. To be clear, I have no problem with a person who disagrees with a homosexual lifestyle, based on their interpretation of the bible or for any other reason. I disagree with bullying, suppressing, stereotyping, or suppressing a group. That is ignorant. Clear difference to me. One is acceptable, one is not in my humble opinion.

Jason Calmes
Jason Calmes

Ease up on the rhetoric. Make your point, make it well.

Jason Calmes
Jason Calmes

The jury is out on the nature v. nurture there, and likely it can be either (genetics is hard). I've been asked in my wandering career as an educator many a tough question, including some about issues such as abortion, gay rights, and other polarizing topics. My answer is almost invariably: Focus less on what is right and wrong, if there is such a thing with this . . . there is nothing right or wrong about floor tiles, for example . . . and focus more of the difficulty these issues present for people. If you start there, I think you'll end up treating people more correctly than if you treat one side or the other like a criminal. I am not going to let these comments get all nuts or political, but this comment was fine. Like I said: this fact is about him; the reaction is about us. Let's show the world (again) that Pelicans fans are on a higher level.

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