Saturday, May 4, 2013

My Homage to Jason Collins and Brittney Griner


When I was in my gay closet and on the cusp of leaving it, one of the things I did constantly was take a “temperature” of where my family, friends, neighborhood, larger community, the Church, and the state was in terms of accepting people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning (LGBTQ). If I sensed people were “cold” towards gay people, I recalibrated what and when I would come out of the closet. In other words, I put it off, and slowly sank back into the shadowy corners of the closet.

Once I got a sense of the temperature warming up, and could sense that I would be welcomed as an out gay man, I then tried to do a kind of calculus in my head of what I would gain — and lose — in coming out of the closet. What I was doing the entire time was looking, listening, and trying to get a sense of what life would be like were I out of my closet.
As a young dad who was married and secretly gay, I surreptitiously read many books by out lesbian and gay writers, but many of them were just out of the closet or struggling with a lifelong illness or unrequited love. Movies and television shows were my other recourse, but in the 1970s and ’80s everyone in the movies who was gay was dying of HIV/AIDS or also just coming out. In music, I knew Leonard Bernstein and Elton John were gay … and I neither wanted to be Leonard or Elton. Professional athletes? Billy Jean King was kind of out but claimed to be bisexual, and Greg Louganis was not out. Indeed, the field of professional athletes was void of people I could relate to in my coming out journey.
In the last few days, weeks, months, and years, things have changed dramatically, and for the better, for LGBTQ people, especially those who are in the closet, be they same-sex couples or individuals of any age. Recently, NBA center Jason Collins of the Washington Wizards came out in Sports Illustrated, owning his story: “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.”

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