I am not a football fan in even the least sense of the word. In fact, if I was having difficulty sleeping, watching a football game would surely end my bout of insomnia. Still, I am a big fan of gay rights, as a gay man who has seen this nation go from zilch on rights for LGBT members to seeing a real path to equality for gay people. Michael Sam actually being drafted into the NFL is a big thing, as though a huge wall has fallen in a sport well known for its homophobia among its players.
I could not help pouring out a few tears hearing the news. Of course, as expected, there were negative and derogatory responses from the public, as many cannot understand the significance of the first drafted, out-of-the-closet, gay NFL football player. I can, as any gay person who has lived through a time when it was necessary to stay in the closet in many families and communities across America; still is in some conservative places.
Some less enlightened individuals thinks anyone in the public eye who makes a big thing about coming out to the world is “flaunting” their homosexuality, such as Michael kissing his partner on public television after hearing the news that the St. Louis Rams drafted him as the 249th draftee of the new season. Then of course, if Michael had been a heterosexual male kissing his girlfriend in front of the cameras after hearing the same news, that would have been considered real sweet and a nice gesture, by the same people who criticized because it was his boyfriend instead.
The whole point is; gay people should not have to hide who they are and who they love, no more than anyone else does. As far as I am concerned, those who have a problem with it will just have to get over it. Gay people who come out are not going to go back into the closet to make those who are uncomfortable with it, feel comfortable. If it is appropriate for a heterosexual to kiss their mate in public and on public television after hearing good news, then it is appropriate for gay people.
Another thing that anyone who has a problem with gay PDAs (Public Displays of Affection), this is only the beginning. We gay people are going to become a lot more brazen with our love. There will be many more of us walking down the street arm and arm with our spouses and our lovers, kissing in the park and letting the world know that we are gay and proud and we are here to stay; the closet we will not return to. If you got a problem with that, move to Russia. As I understand, Vladimir Putin is forcing Russian gays to go back into hiding, or face arrest.
Freedom is a dear thing to gay people, the same as it is for heterosexuals. Gay people came down a long road to get here. Though I must admit, I did not think it would come so quickly when it did come, because bigotry toward gays was very deep when I was growing up in the 70s.
It was not that some LGBT members were not brazen enough to take risk, such as walking down the street holding your partners hand or other public displays of affection back in the 70s, but we knew the risk came with real and present danger, especially in conservative communities, such as the state I live in, Oklahoma. We also knew that if some of us were not willing to take that risk, we would never see the fruition of our equal rights as Americans. We would continue to be harassed by police and anyone else who wanted to strike out at us. We would continue to be fired from our jobs, bashed on the streets and denied housing, if some of us were not willing to stand up and say, I am gay, I am here, I exist, and I cannot and will not change into something I am not.
Michael Sam’s acceptance by the NFL means a lot for the rest of us gays because we know that victory did not come easily and it especially did not come from hiding in the proverbial closet. So if anyone has a problem with gay people “flaunting” their gayness for the world to know, I will let them know we do it with all the pride we can muster, because without that “flaunting” those with a problem would still be treating us as if we did not exist. We would still be facing arrest, harassment, and all the other negative and derogatory aspects of hiding in the closet, and not a future of equality.
Congratulations for Michael Sam making history. One more step forward and one more crumbling wall between gay people and their freedom has fallen to the ground.