This article originally appeared in Souciant, where I maintain a weekly column. Please support our work, we depend on you.
Leftists often bemoan a perceived lack of progress on the issues they work on. Fighting economic injustice, war or discrimination can feel like a thankless task. On top of the
difficulty of the work, too often we fail to celebrate success and lose a longer historical view of how the world has changed for the better.
That’s why this week’s revelation by National Basketball Association veteran Jason Collins that he is gay is so important. Collins is the first professional player in a major US male team sport to come out while he was still active, and the media as well as most other athletes who have spoken publicly have been extremely supportive. It’s worthwhile to stop and realize that only a few short years ago the response would have been very different.
As an avid athletics fan who often listens to sports talk radio, I can say that the worst of the responses I’ve heard have been measured and usually consist of asking “why does he even have to bring it up?” That is a very long way from the open hate directed at Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) people that I’ve heard most of my life, in every social realm. Still, it’s worth examining just why it is so important that Collins came out publicly.
The fact is, statements and stances by public figures can have a strong impact on people who are struggling with their identity. It’s a terrifying way to live when you are hiding who you are and afraid of what those dear to you might think if they found out. That is an experience I know too well. And it leaves one very vulnerable to the actions, both positive and negative, of famous people who dare talk about “it.”
By the age of nine, I knew I was bisexual, even though I couldn’t articulate that idea even in my own mind. As I got older and moved into my teens, I grappled with shame, denial and an overwhelming fear of discovery. Though actively bi from the time I was 14, I didn’t tell anyone, not even friends who were gay, let alone my family, until I was 26.
One of the things that got me through those difficult times was my favorite (to this day) musician, David Bowie. I had been listening to Bowie since I was nine, and didn’t really get the whole bisexual thing about him until I was twelve or thirteen. That was, as it turned out, just when I needed it the most. Continue reading