Act #124: Don't define people by their sexual orientation.
Sound ludicrous? It should. No one cares who a straight person like me sleeps with (except maybe my husband), and my sexuality has no bearing on my capacity to effectively work in non-profit management. I shouldn't have to defend myself to my colleagues or hide who I really am just to gain acceptance. But Jason Collins had to. Because he happens to be gay in a world dominated by hyper-masculinity, aggression, and very narrow definitions of strength and acceptance. Thank you, Jason for your courage to be true to yourself and to expect nothing less from the rest of us. Maybe someday, a person's sexual orientation will pale in comparison to their character - so much that being gay won't be newsworthy at all. Until then, I hope we can all learn from the courage and grace of this first openly gay NBA player. The following is an excerpt from his interview with Sports Illustrated magazine. I took his text and basically just replaced the words "gay" with "straight" and "NBA player" with "non-profit director".
The Gay Athlete
By Jason Collins
I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay. I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I'm happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn't the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, "I'm different." If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand. My journey of self-discovery and self-acknowledgement began in my hometown of Los Angeles and has taken me through two state high school championships, the NCAA Final Four and the Elite Eight, and nine playoffs in 12 NBA seasons. I go against the gay stereotype, which is why I think a lot of players will be shocked: That guy is gay? But I've always been an aggressive player, even in high school. Am I so physical to prove that being gay doesn't make you soft? Who knows? By its nature, my double life has kept me from getting close to any of my teammates. Early in my career I worked hard at acting straight, but as I got more comfortable in my straight mask it required less effort. In recent days, though, little has separated "mask on, mask off." Personally, I don't like to dwell in someone else's private life, and I hope players and coaches show me the same respect. When I'm with my team I'm all about working hard and winning games. A good teammate supports you no matter what. I've been asked how other players will respond to my announcement. The simple answer is, I have no idea. I'm a pragmatist. I hope for the best, but plan for the worst. The biggest concern seems to be that gay players will behave unprofessionally in the locker room. Believe me, I've taken plenty of showers in 12 seasons. My behavior wasn't an issue before, and it won't be one now. As I write this, I haven't come out to anyone in the NBA. I'm not privy to what other players say about me. Maybe Mike Miller, my old teammate in Memphis, will recall the time I dropped by his house in Florida and say, "I enjoyed being his teammate, and I sold him a dog." I hope players swap stories like that. Maybe they'll talk about my character and what kind of person I am.
For Jason's entire, remarkable story: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/magazine/news/20130429/jason-collins-gay-nba-player/.