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Truthdigger of the Week: Jason Collins

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Posted on May 4, 2013
AP/Michael Dwyer

By Peter Z. Scheer

(Page 2)

Little has been said of the role of race, but it’s an important subject. The second sentence in Collins’ article is “I’m black.” Anti-gay activists have long played on the prejudices of the black community against its gay members, but things are changing there too. President Obama endorsed same-sex unions, then the NAACP followed. So did prominent African-American celebrities and political figures, adding to the momentum. Again, the timing is just right for Collins, but we’re still only six years removed from Hardaway’s proud declaration, “I am homophobic,” and only a few days past Broussard saying Collins is in “open rebellion” of Jesus. Actually, Collins had something quite eloquent to say on the subject of Jesus:

I take the teachings of Jesus seriously, particularly the ones that touch on tolerance and understanding. On family trips, my parents made a point to expose us to new things, religious and cultural. In Utah, we visited the Mormon Salt Lake Temple. In Atlanta, the house of Martin Luther King Jr. That early exposure to otherness made me the guy who accepts everyone unconditionally.

So far things are going well for Collins. He is widely expected to end up on a team, despite his advanced age and limited skills. He had no way of knowing that before he stepped into the spotlight. In fact, a sportswriter friend of mine told me Collins’ agent wanted him to wait until he had a contract to make the announcement, for fear that teams would avoid the only openly gay player in the NBA. But Collins couldn’t wait any longer.

For many of us who spend time in the closet, typically when we’re kids, there’s a special shame our child brains are not really capable of processing. For those who keep their secrets into adulthood, the mental strain multiplies. Collins reached his breaking point when, at the age of 34, he still did not believe he had the right to take pride in himself.

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“I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, ‘I’m different,’ ” he writes. “If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.”

The commentators are right. This is long overdue, and Collins is not Robinson. He’s Jason Collins, a brave man who raised his hand long after someone else should have, but before anyone else could build up the nerve. He started the conversation, as he put it, and for that we honor him as our Truthdigger of the Week.

We cannot end without acknowledging the courage of another gay basketball player. Brittney Griner was the first player selected in the 2013 WNBA draft, a college star who will play professional basketball in the WNBA and in China. Two weeks ago she came out, with much less fuss. Perhaps it’s Griner who deserves credit for starting the conversation. Her advice is to “just be who you are. Don’t worry about what other people are going to say, because they’re always going to say something, but, if you’re just true to yourself, let that shine through. Don’t hide who you really are.”


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