As most of you know, I love sports. In fact, I’m obsessed with sports. I grew up in a world where “a man” loved and played sports and I loved this world: Football, Baseball, NASCAR, etc… and I still do. I also grew up in a world where being gay and loving sports was, at best, weird. Sports was for “manly men” and gays, well, we were, not so much…
I love my Mets, I love my Pats. More recently I love my Red Sox (not least because what is good is good for the Sox is bad for the Yankees; who I truly hate). But as a kid in high school and college who was struggling with coming out, I never imagined that sports and being true to myself could be reconciled. There was a point in my life when – honest to God, ask my college buddies – all I wanted was to be a pro volleyball player. But I also wanted to be true to myself and my truth is being an Out Gay man.
I choose my truth over one (of many) of my passions.
I don’t regret that choice. That choice defines who I am. That choice made me who I am today: A proud and fierce advocate for the Jewish community and for LGBT inclusion in our community.
But when I watch Jason Collins – the first Out athlete in any of the four major mens’ U.S. pro sports leagues – take the court for the Brooklyn Nets, to applause, to standing ovations… I know that since my formative years in the 80’s and 90’s to today; THINGS GET BETTER.
What Jason Collins represents, what Jason Collins says every day when he steps on to the court, is that the choices I made don’t need to be choices anymore. We don’t have to choose between passion and authenticity, between our purpose and our truths. We, the members of the LGBT community, can be true to ourselves: to pursue our passions and our purpose in this world, WITHOUT CONTRADICTION OR COMPROMISE.
I made my choices. They define me. They’ve enabled me to become the leader in the Jewish community that I am: rooted in authenticity, committed to inclusion.
But not a day goes by that I’m not thrilled by Jason Collins: He sends a message to our youth that the paradigm of choices have changed; that America is in fact ready for Out athletes at the pro level; that we are in, in fact, a nation in which all of us are equal and, maybe, all of us are valued for what we have to offer, on and off the court.
So yeah, Jason Collins is my hero, on the court and off; because he has the strength and courage to be true to himself, to his truth, to his passion and to his skills; because he inspires folks like myself – older than him – to keep fighting for equality; because he inspires folks younger than him to live their truths; and because, at the end of the day, he’s just a ballplayer adding value to his team – like any other ballplayer – and that’s all that really matters. That’s what I strive to do, add value to my community, to my causes… as me, my whole me, with all of my truth, unconditionally.
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