Something historical happened today: The US has its first active openly gay athlete in professional sports (story via Rod2.0), with Jason Collins being the proverbial trailblazer–he’s actually a Wizard (pun intended).
What I find particularly interesting is his coming out statement: “I’m a 34 year old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.” He identifies himself by job (and it’s a really good one), ethnicity, and then orientation. That I think says a lot about the gay community and how it struggles to really deal with those of us who are multiple minorities.
It is no secret that most of the English-language developed world has a White middle-class majority. To its credit, it’s also good that the English-language developed world is also trying to correct it and get towards a post-racial state of affairs.
In my experience, I have occasionally wondered whether I’m really included or not, particularly in the gay community because I don’t fit the perception in the media sense of being gay.
What’s that perception?
Well, when you turn on the news or read a newspaper and see something representing the “gay community” it is most often a white gay male in his late 30s to 40s.
Now, while it is great to have any representation, but I think it’s time that we start thinking about the effects of having the rainbow community represented in a largely monotone shade.
Here in Australia, we are fortunate to have Senator Penny Wong, who is Asian, as one of the most prominent openly gay people in the media, because she causes people to think twice about that old ridiculous chestnut that “I can’t be gay because I am XYZ ethnicity.”
In the US, we’ve had ever increasing minority males and females come out, and yet there is still this perception that ethnicity trumps sexuality. We need more people to come out as being proud of both their ethnic background and their sexual orientation.
This where being a role model does matter, because being a role model, allows you to start changing minds on a larger scale.
While I wish that I had grown up seeing successful black gay men in media, I am glad that generations after me will be able to.
- Veteran NBA Center Jason Collins: “I’m gay” (probasketballtalk.nbcsports.com)
- First Openly Gay Professional Male Athlete in a Major Sport Comes Out (sportsillustrated.cnn.com)
- Gay in the NBA, first ‘openly gay’ athlete in major American sports speaks out (wtvr.com)