Washington Wizards center Jason Collins came out today. It was a top story on Yahoo News and on many other news sites. The reason why Jason’s proclamation was news was because he is the first major athlete of a U.S. team to do so. Apparently our professional sports teams are assumed to be full of homophobes because Jason was somehow the first to do so. Most likely this “news” will soon become as newsworthy as the fact that there are gays in the military. I know I read the headline and simply shrugged and moved onto the next article.
Gays are all around us. They always have been around us. Most of us heterosexuals just preferred to ignore or discount the evidence. The difference between 2013 and, say, 1963 is in 1963 this was not obvious to us. Few even knew that homosexuals existed, but assumed that if they existed, they were some tiny fraction of the population, like twins conjoined at birth. Now even in deeply red states people know that gays are out there by the tens of millions. While there are still some prejudiced anti-gay bigots, if anything, they constitute a smaller percent of the population than gays and lesbians do. Some of us may still have some moral qualms about gays marrying or think that gay sex is disgusting. But all but a handful of us now understand that there is nothing we can really do about it. If there is anything newsworthy about Jason Collins’s admission, it should be why it took so long.
I really doubt there is anyone on the Washington Wizards or anyone in playing in the NBA who really gives a crap about Collins’s sexual orientation. I doubt any of the fans care either, although they will care if his performance starts to suffer. Ten years ago maybe a player or two might have felt awkward being in the shower with someone openly gay and their sex. Maybe they wondered if they would be sexually assaulted if they reached over to pick up that bar of soap they dropped. Or that they might be secretly gay, as evidenced by the boner they might get when in the shower with the gay guy. Maybe. Not anymore. I certainly never give these things a thought when I am in a public shower. Heck, I doubt I would even register shock if a team of women basketball players joined us in the shower. Unless you are sexually inexperienced or never saw any porn, it’s not like the human body is a mystery. If anything, seeing people naked makes us appreciate that all but about five percent of us look better with clothes on than without them.
Being homophobic is not a natural state of affairs; it is a learned behavior. I grew up in a lily-white community. I don’t recall even seeing a black or oriental person until I was more than ten years old. It sure was strange and uncomfortable for me when we moved south and suddenly I was surrounded by all sorts of blacks. But I got over it. It became normal. After a while I simply gave it no thought. In fact, now I find I like living in multiethnic communities. It’s like moving from a black and white world into a Technicolor world. A multiethnic, multiracial community is far more interesting a place to live in. If nothing else, the choice of dining tends to improve greatly. It would be a real challenge to go back to living in one of these virtually all white communities. It would seem so unnatural now; I’d feel like I had hives.
Sexual orientation is not obvious. Of course some gays choose to flaunt their sexual orientation, but even among gays there is incredible diversity on how they choose to express their sexuality. But that’s true of all of us. We all have our kinks and peculiarities. Most transvestites are happily heterosexual men. The sorts of weird behavior that make me queasy are those that I would never do. Sadomasochism is something I would never do, but some people are into it. As long as it is consensual and I am not participating, it’s perfectly fine by me. I am old fashioned enough to request some civility. I ask that it please be done indoors, preferably with the curtains drawn and not with kids in the house. I cannot be offended by something I cannot see.
You certainly cannot see someone’s sexual orientation. Try as you might you will never see it. You might see behavior that is often associated with gays or lesbians, but I’ve been proven wrong leaping to these assumptions. The only way someone’s sexual orientation matters to me is that it takes her out of my potential dating pool, and since I am married that’s not something to worry about.
I’m sorry that Jason Collins felt the need to come out at all. Granted, it is tougher to be gay and black than gay and white, so perhaps there is some bravery coming out while being both of these. Sexual orientation simply does not matter anymore than it matters whether someone has blue eyes or brown, is short rather than tall, or has size 14 feet instead of size 4. The qualities about someone that truly matter are intangibles like their character. All the rest, including sexual orientations, are simply tests on our character.
I’d like to find out some of that character stuff about Jason. That might be newsworthy.