Letters from the Lunar Outpost

I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.

I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, “I’m different.” If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.

My journey of self-discovery and self-acknowledgement began in my hometown of Los Angeles and has taken me through two state high school championships, the NCAA Final Four and the Elite Eight, and nine playoffs in 12 NBA seasons.

I’ve played for six pro teams and have appeared in two NBA Finals. Ever heard of a parlor game called Three Degrees of Jason Collins? If you’re in the league, and I haven’t been your teammate, I surely have been one of your teammates’ teammates. Or one of your teammates’ teammates’ teammates.

source: Sports Illustrated

Jason Collins, Sports Illustrated CoverIf they had been the ones who made the choice, the gay community could not have picked a better man to be the first openly gay athlete in American big league sports. Seriously, how eloquent is this guy? Please do click the link and keep reading. It’s a great read. For all Jason Collins gifts as an athlete, the man is equally gifted with words.

Depending on where you mark the beginnings, Major League Baseball has been around for about 140 years, the NFL is seven years shy of 100, and the NBA will turn 67 in June. Through those three leagues and hundreds of years combined, no active player has come out until now. That is how hard the unwritten code of the locker room was cast. They may as well just have had a sign over the door of the locker room of every sports team in America that read, “NO GAYS ALLOWED.”

Jason Collins just showed a lot of courage to come out the way he did today. We’re not talking courage on the level of Jackie Robinson, Collins won’t face a level of hate anything near what Robinson faced in being the first black man to play in the major leagues, but as far as heroes and heroines go, in one day, I would say the man is already of a larger magnitude than say, Ellen DeGeneres, who came out in a comedian / entertainment community which already had it’s fair share of openly gay performers. This is not to take away anything from Ellen (whose act is surprisingly about as clean as Bob Sagat spinning jokes on America’s Funniest Home Videos) but beloved as Ellen may be by the gay community and supporters of gay rights, what Jason Collins did today was a giant leap forward compared to Ellen’s step out of the closet.

Myself personally? I’m so straight, I once french kissed a guy on a bet and felt even more straight after that kiss because I felt nothing whatsoever in it. I only have eyes for women and nothing but women. I also have a lot of Christian friends who I respect who truly believe that homosexuality is a sin. I will continue respecting them as long as they also live up to Jesus’ teaching to “hate the sin, love the sinner”.

That is their belief, they think homosexuality is a choice and a sinful one at that, and I will respect my Christian friends who believe this even though I have seen with my own eyes plenty examples of people who I believe were born gay. Sure, some people might make the choice as a conscious decision, a choice that they would rather live the alternative lifestyle, but who among us hasn’t also known a two- or three- or four-year-old kid that you already knew was gay many years before they might figure it out themselves?

There are conservatives and there are libertarians. I am much more the latter than the former, but for my conservative friends who believe in “traditional marriage”, I ask you to try to imagine being born different as I give some major props to Jason Collins, because today, he became the first major leaguer to have the courage to come out and say, this is me, and I am who I am.

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