#98 and LGBTQ Tolerance

On Sunday, Jason Collins— a 7-foot tall defensive player for the Brooklyn Nets— made no points in the 11 minutes of game he played against the LA Lakers. But the crowd was cheering for him when his feet hit the court because he walked out as the first openly gay athlete in the history of the NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL.

Collins came out in a Sports Illustrated article written last spring, after finishing the 2012-13 season with the Washington Wizards and becoming a free agent. He was not signed onto another team until hours before the game on Sunday, when he signed a 10-day contract with the Nets.

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Jason came out in this edition of Sports Illustrated.

His presence in that game represents the first step in a major transformation in American professional sports, and shows that more people are becoming tolerant toward members of the LGBTQ community. And that’s a good thing, since they still face discrimination— maybe not with fire hoses and vicious police dogs, but through harassment and abuse in the workplace and the locker room.

Discrimination due to sexual orientation clearly violates human rights and dignity. And no, I’m not talking about gay marriage—I’m talking about thinking less of a person simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Even the Catholic Church, who many know does not condone or support gay marriages, encourages acceptance of the LGBTQ community in the workplace and beyond.

The current trend seems to favor judging people for their character rather than their love interests and gender identity (or lack thereof). I’m happy about the shift; this issue has caused too many suicides and too much unnecessary violence, not to mention too many young people walking around feeling less than human simply because society doesn’t accept parts of them. These people may never reach their full potential if they can not even feel comfortable being themselves.

But we’re all a little scared of things we don’t understand, so the transition will be hard. I remember my senior year in high school when many of my friends, classmates, people who I ate lunch with, and teammates started coming out left and right. Going from having no gay friends to having several in the span of a few weeks left me feeling confused, a little scared, and probably a bit discriminatory—in my head, at least. But I never treated them differently because I knew they were still the same people, though perhaps now with a little less weight on their shoulders.

A little bit of tolerance can totally change a community. At first one or two people came out at my school, and it was all anyone would whisper about in the lunch line or between classes. But after the confusion and fear died down, more people felt comfortable following suit. That’s why I like hearing stories about people like Collins; it shows that tolerance can blossom in a community, and that the violence and negativity associated with sexual orientation could someday fade away.

“America the brave still fears what we don’t know
And God loves all his children, is somehow forgotten.”  –Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, “Same Love”

Want to know why Jason Collins chooses to wear #98? Click here.

-Scott Hines

Scott Hines is a Director for Blood, Sweat and Berries.

Vive le Mariage Gay?

We knew the French were a nation of liberal bourgeoisie bon-vivants, but now this?

I jest. But in case you missed it, last week France became the 9th European country, and 14th globally, to legalize gay marriage.

Now, I’m not here to argue the relative merits of the pro- and anti- sides in the debate. Or even discuss the debate. This isn’t a blog about that. Pick your favorite liberal or conservative blog and troll the comments for some great one-sided views on the issue. But then that can’t be helped. It’s a divisive topic at best, and daily protests during the week leading up to the vote in France attest to that. I only lead off with it because the story got me thinking tangentially. Thinking about paradigm shifts and changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes, and above all, our perceptions and how we view the world.

mariage gai

Attitudes do change. Issues that at one time were stigmatized, or even taboo, eventually are allowed into the light of day, and, through greater exposure, then pass through the stages of tolerance, understanding, and acceptance. It’s a trend that repeats itself at various times and in various places. The Civil Rights and Women’s Suffrage Movements here in the United States are two examples, and are examples that have been repeated, or indeed were preceded, in various regions all over the world. It’s not so very long ago those movements happened and yet, those of us born into a world shaped by them can hardly imagine the previous status quo. We’re even shocked when we hear of other countries that haven’t reached that point, that practice racial segregation or don’t allow women to vote.

Perception has changed so much on these issues for us that, while undercurrents of non-tolerance may run here and there, the prevailing sentiment is one of acceptance. But all it takes is a little time. Change the f-stop on the lens, lengthen the exposure. It’ll all turn out alright.
And so acceptance is gained. And yet we can’t seem to parlay that shift in how we view one social issue to a shift that encompasses all social issues.

I was cycling through town a couple days ago, and as I slowed approaching a stop sign a homeless man called out to me. I was focused though. In a hurry to get somewhere and didn’t want the awkwardness of a forced conversation. I had my headphones in as well, so I used them as an excuse to ignore him. But he called out again, and again, and the third time, when I looked up he smiled and said “Nice bike.” He didn’t want anything, only to share a moment. I was the one who had imprinted certain pre-conceived notions and experiences onto the situation.

And I thought to myself, What happened to your own tolerance? Sure you get burned once in a while when you put yourself out there, as not everyone lives up to the ideals we may have as human beings, but you can’t take that scar and apply it across an entire social strata. I’m still working on it. It’s a sometimes difficult lesson. Awakening and tolerance and knowing that everybody deep down struggles with the same issues.

Everyone’s different, yet everyone’s the same.

Thoughts on a napkin, or better yet, in the comments thread of this post.

-David

David Wilson graduated from the University of Texas in 2006. Since then he has gone wherever the wind blows him, living in Europe, China, and the States, and traveling extensively throughout the rest of the world. When he’s not on the move, you can find him obsessing over latte art, playing piano, or trying to bleach his hair in the sunshine. Follow him on Twitter.