What is equality really about?
As you likely know even if you don’t follow professional sports, veteran NBA center Jason Collins has come out as gay. He’s the first active member of a major sport to do so.
I’ve linked to the Sports Illustrated editorial he wrote to explain his decision. My favorite section comes near the end:
Openness may not completely disarm prejudice, but it’s a good place to start. It all comes down to education. I’ll sit down with any player who’s uneasy about my coming out. Being gay is not a choice. This is the tough road and at times the lonely road.
Mainstream society currently views gay rights and gay marriage as synonymous, and focuses more on marriage than any other aspect of gay life. As some of my queer friends have pointed out, the march to equality moves far beyond marriage. Not all gay people want to get married, or think that marriage is a good institution to promote. Society is slowly pivoting to gays being part of the norm rather than an error, an aberration. Even in a society used to the concept of rights, things aren’t moving quickly enough.
What is Collins’ action part of? The idea that gay people are woven into the fabric of this nation. There are gay athletes, teachers, ministers, and soldiers. Gay athletes like Collins, straight allies like NFL punter Chris Kluwe, and organizations like You Can Play
attempt to make coming out a personal choice. Heteronormativity
leads people to assume that certain groups of people are always straight, or that it seems natural for them to be. There are pervasive stereotypes about LGBT individuals being deviant, hypersexual, or insufficiently masculine (or feminine). When “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was being reviewed en route to its repeal, gays were portrayed as unable to keep their professionalism, and couldn’t keep it in their pants. It’s insulting.
So Collins is a member of another, more neglected front of the gay rights struggle. When he came out two days ago it was national news. Part of the goal is that one day an athlete will come out, and it’s not a media spectacle. It’s just someone living their life.