An active gay athlete coming out is news today, but soon it won't be
Massachusetts sophomore shooting guard Derrick Gordon publicly said that he is a homosexual on Wednesday morning, becoming the first Division I men's basketball player who is openly gay. This is big news that a lot of people really don't want to hear.
You may be one of them. You may think: Enough already with these stories already. You are sick of hearing about the first gay NBA player, the first gay NFL player, the first gay college basketball player, the first gay middle infielder who only starts against left-handed pitching and the first sexually confused NASCAR crew chief.
If you are one of these folks, I have some good news for you.
You will get your wish soon.
Each of these stories is a smaller deal than the last, and within a year or two you will barely notice them at all.
Here is what you need to understand: on some level, I agree with you. I'm pretty sure Derrick Gordon, Jason Collins and Michael Sam agree with you. They don't want to be news for who they are. They just want to be who they are.
As Gordon tweeted Wednesday: "This is the happiest I have ever been in my 22 Years of living...No more HIDING!!!"
See? Gordon is just like you: He wants to be happy, he wants to be himself, and he capitalizes random words in his tweets.
These are stories now partly because the first of anything is news. We need to see how society reacts. The early returns are overwhelming: Society is just fine. I think I speak for most Americans when I say that I don't care who anybody sleeps with, unless it's a really hot celebrity or me.
What will happen if we just leave Gordon alone? Other gay athletes will come out, and then we can leave them alone, too. Young gay people will not be as terrified that they are "different" (almost every teen's nightmare) because they won't feel so different, and they will come out, too. And we can leave them alone. So we all can make the world a better place by doing nothing. It's the American dream!
That is another reason why these stories are still worthwhile. The message needs to go out that it's OK to openly live life as you choose, however you choose. Heterosexual people tend not to have this concern, which is why we don't give them a forum to announce their sexuality. They can do it however they like, and nobody flinches.
I know it seems like the media is in a rush to publish these stories. Well, we certainly publish them -- SI broke the Jason Collins news last April -- but we're not in a rush.
A few months ago, before Sam came out, I talked to an editor about a well-known NFL player who I have reason to believe is gay. This would be major news, but it's news you can't write unless the player wants you to write it. In fact, you have to be careful about even reporting it unless the player wants you to do it, because dragging people out of the closet can be dangerous.
What if I ask the player's agent about it and the agent doesn't know? Do I want to be the one who outs the player to anybody against his will? I do not. Unless I get a signal from a go-between or the player himself, I will just leave it alone.
The complaints about these stories are similar to complaints about people "flaunting" their homosexuality in public by holding hands or showing affection for their partners. They aren't flaunting, and Derrick Gordon is not shoving his sexuality in anybody's face. He is giving closeted homosexuals an example of somebody who is not afraid anymore. In a year, you probably won't even remember his name. He can live his life, and you can live yours.