Putting aside my Essential Movie Guide for the night, I had to talk about today's huge LGBT/Sports news. Former Nets, Lakers and Celtics (now a Free Agent) NBA player Jason Collins made history today by coming out of the closet in the latest issue of Sports Illustrated.
For many weeks, there has been speculation that a group of three or four NFL players might come out collectively, so as to 'soften' the impact. But Collins beat them all to the punch and became the first active professional team sports athlete to embrace and proclaim his queerness. The 33 year old, 7' tall twin says he started thinking about his life during the 2011 NBA shut-out, though he doesn't say why it took him another 2 years to come out. Of course, coming out publicly is a deeply personal and often painful process (though I personally know of no one who has regretted doing so). I was in my mid-30's before I came out to my family (all of whom said they already knew), though all of my friends already knew, so I can totally sympathize with Collins.
As more and more countries and U.S. States are affirming that LGBT people have the same basic human rights as straight people, Collins' announcement couldn't come at a better time. Not only has he set a precedent for other professional athletes (who I hope will follow his lead), he joins the growing ranks of celebrities who raise both our visibility and (though I hate to use the word) 'normalize' homosexuality. The last ten years have seen great strides in LGBT rights and the last 2 years alone have shown leaps and bounds in people's attitudes about what being gay means.
Of course, there are still homophobic asshats out there who want us to stay silent and 'repent' for our 'sins.' As an atheist I don't believe in sin. What I do believe in is common decency; human rights; doing good for its own sake and accepting people for who they are. Yes, there are horrible people who want to plant bombs at public events; take out thousands of innocents with hijacked planes and generally destroy all that is good and right in the world, simply because some religious fanatic brain-washed them into doing so. But those people are the exceptions. And yes, there are those who would twist the words of 'holy' books to suit their own needs and persecute those who disagree. Again, these are the exceptions. Seriously, if you believe in "God," how the hell can you say what "He" (or "She") thinks? Get over yourselves, already.
Here's the thing: We are still just at the very beginning of the 21st Century. As more and more famous LGBT people make themselves visible, the more the public at large will realize we aren't freaks, perverts or sinners. We are simply people; living the lives we were born to live; loving the people who make us happy. Isn't that what life is really about, anyway? As we move further into the century's second decade, I can only imagine that things will continue to improve and can very clearly imagine basic human rights for everyone, regardless of sex; race; creed or orientation. I'm very much looking forward to other pro athletes inevitably following Collins' lead and a time when sexuality is no longer a dividing issue. The Bryan Fischers and Maggie Gallaghers of the world have already seen the writing on the wall (you should excuse the Biblical reference) and they are becoming more and more desperate in their attempts to defame and decry our rights as fellow humans. And while I would never deign to deny them their right to believe what they want to believe, I will happily stick out my tongue and make fun of them for being the losers in the fight for what's right.
I am so happy that I am alive to see at least the beginning of the end of homophobia and a new path towards acceptance and understanding. It's been a long time coming and it's actually exciting to see it happening.