The Way of the Future: Jason Collins and Sexual Orientation in America

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I had a violently angry article primed and ready to go for this afternoon here at the Recorder, one that discusses the eroding values of our culture that have been showcased over the last few weeks by the tragedies in Boston, one that snarls and might be the angriest thing I’ve ever written.

Then I went to work and turned on ESPN and heard about Jason Collins’ announcement that he is “a 34 year old center,[…] black, [and] gay.” In light of the significance of this announcement, yelling about Twitter, ignorance, and racial stereotyping in modern America seemed…well…petty.

I would like to lead off that we here at the Addison Recorder are proud of Jason Collins, that we respect and support him, and that we are especially glad to see that his decision to come out has been WIDELY EMBRACED by a litany of public figures, both within the sporting world and outside of with.

(I will also readily admit that I am not a big enough aficionado of the NBA to be able to identify who Jason Collins was. My first response when I heard that an athlete came out this morning was “Wow, that’s awesome!…..who does he play for?” Immediately followed by “What position? Center? Halfback? Are the Wizards even a team anymore?” Needless to say, I’m not proud of myself.)

The best thing about Collins’ coming out is that it was immediately usurped in the news by Tim Tebow being cut by the New York Jets.

Because, and I say this with as much understanding of the turmoils and tribulations that go hand in hand with making such a public announcement as I am able to muster, the sexual orientation of ANYBODY doesn’t matter.

It’s surely a great thing that an active male athlete in one of the four major sports leagues in America has come out, especially the fact that he is an active player. (Although he is a free agent, 34, and nothing more than a role player at this point in his career, though he does provide the type of veteran leadership and mentoring abilities that would go well with anyone signing a petulant 7′ center who is about to make a metric shit-ton of money from whomever signs him this off-season. Hint: he might have gotten two technical fouls in a playoff game yesterday and been ejected in the 3rd quarter for throwing a tantrum.) Hopefully, this will encourage other gay athletes to recognize that they need not hide in the shadows, that their teammates, most of whom are coming of age in a new era of understanding and acceptance, will mostly be concerned with their ability to perform on the field, not how they choose to live their lives off the field. (With exceptions going out for those rabble-rousers like Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu, about whom his teammates should be radically concerned how he spends his time off the field.) Hopefully, Jason Collins is signed by a team and the first time he takes the floor, it is to the sounds of roaring applause and support, of the type usually reserved for war heroes and team institutions like Magic Johnson of the Lakers.

Once that’s happened, however, it is my sincere hope that everything continues as normal. Collins plays his minutes, clunks a few jump shots, grabs some rebounds, issues some hard fouls where they are warranted, and goes on with his career much as he has for the past twelve seasons. Quietly, with veteran efficiency.

I guess the point I’m trying to make here, albeit redundantly, is that the generational shift that has been going on for the past ten years is one that results in a common sense of acceptance for those men and women that are prominent figures in popular culture who come out in a public setting. Remember Brittney Griner, the 2nd leading scorer in NCAA women’s history and recent #1 pick in the WNBA draft? She came out too. And nothing much changed. (Granted, other prominent WNBA players have come out, but even then, society offered a big ol’ shrug and went on with their lives. Much like what happened with Griner, who will undoubtedly go on to a highly successful career in the WNBA, barring a freak injury or Mark Cuban signing her to a 2 year deal to play back-up power forward for the Mavericks. Now THERE”S something that would result in a lot of people going “Wait…what?”) The President of the Golden State Warriors is gay. So is Doogie Howser. And Sulu from Star Trek. (Not the new, flashy one full of lens flares. Though that Sulu did act in a movie that featured Doogie Howser playing himself. I may be off-topic here, I apologize.)

What this signifies in the broader sense is a growing sense of acceptance amongst modern American and world cultures that sexual orientation is not a choice, nor is it an abomination or an outrage against the world: it’s just a way of life, one that shouldn’t be denied to others simply because it made an older generation uncomfortable while wrapped up in hierarchical Puritan ethics. As gay marriage slowly becomes legal in more and more states, and more and more countries around the world, the ultimate sense is that we are trending in a positive direction for social and civil rights for the LGBT community, a direction that (hopefully) results in us looking back on today in twenty years and saying “Huh, I wonder what all the fuss was about. Was it because the Jets dropped Tebow?

“They should have done that YEARS AGO.”

(Sidenote: I realize Tebow has only played with the Jets for a year, though ‘played’ might be too generous a word. I’ve simply exaggerated his duration with the team to make my point: this all should have happened YEARS ago. You’re welcome, Earth.)

(Sidenote #2: I didn’t quite finish reading Mr. Collins’ personal essay on si.com earlier, in such a rush was I to finish my article, but upon glancing back. I choked up when I read that he wears the number 98 on his jersey as a way of honoring Matthew Shepherd, killed in Laramie, WY in 1998. I would like to reiterate here that we are proud of him and support Mr. Collins 100%, and that we recognize how intensely terrifying such a decision must have been for him, and how there is still virulent homophobia in America. What I’m trying to say is that, one by one, the ignorant morons who would hold people like Jason Collins back, keeping them hiding in the shadows, are dwindling. Whether it be because their beliefs are changing, they recognize that blind hatred is amoral and wrong, or they’re just plain dying off, their numbers are dwindling. And that’s what I’m really trying to say.)

Travis J. Cook

Travis J. Cook

Travis J. Cook is the Editor-in-Chief and one of the original founders of the Addison Recorder. He writes about baseball, movies, and music, among other topics. He resides in a hole in the ground near Wrigley Field.

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