Maybe I don't get 'out' enough to appreciate the totality of Jason Collins gay announcement and media tour. Nothing against him personally, but his fortuitous timing seems to greatly benefit his career more than the LGBT movement. After 33 years in the baking you would think he would at least get all of the ingredients right -- but one is noticeably missing: homage. Perhaps I'm being cynical, but as an openly gay 40-something year old man I have witnessed much of the evolution of gay rights in America. I appreciate his honesty, and I am touched by the thought of him wearing a No. 98 jersey to secretly honor fallen LGBT solider Matthew Shepard, who in 1998 was tortured and left to die in Wyoming -- murdered simply because he was gay. Even during this Oprah-worthy moment, my heart beats stronger for the men and women who have experienced serious and bigoted consequences to ensure Jason's cake baked peacefully -- while many others got their bundt's burnt.
Here are a couple notable coming out stories:
In 1997, DeGeneres made one of the boldest moves in television history. While her award winning television show, Ellen was at its peak, she 'came out' in the April issue of Time Magazine declaring on the cover, "Yep, I'm Gay." Right wing bully Jerry Falwell publicly demoralized her by calling her "Ellen Degenerate". Oprah, an LGBT friend and ally, joined the cast of Ellen as a therapist -- where Ellen's character then 'came out' on the show. Unfortunately, America wasn't quite ready for LGBT prime time representation and slammed the closet door in her face. Ellen's ratings tanked and her show was cancelled. She now has the hottest daytime talk show and continues to work diligently to make the world a better and safer place for children and adults by supporting numerous charities and causes.
In 2007, British Amaechi was the first major sports player to honestly and bravely pave the way for sporty 'gays'. After retiring from the NBA and despite receiving numerous death threats, he continued to maximize his story using it as a catalyst to help the LGBT movement by speaking publicly in conjunction with the popular civil rights organization, Human Rights Campaign. Throughout his closeted career, he had been a major donor to various LGBT organizations. He has been honored with numerous awards, most notably in 2011, with the appointment of Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his charitable contributions and service. He remains a significant force and transcontinental hero who deserves our highest respect. He has dedicated his life to helping children achieve their highest potential while celebrating their diverse intimate racial and gender identifications and physical capabilities.
I appreciate Jason's honestly, but quite frankly, this hot news topic doesn't make me feel warm and fuzzy inside until I consciously incorporate and celebrate all of the heroes who have suffered -- or whose lives have been severely inconvenienced or silenced -- as a result of their greater and braver actions.
Jason seems like a nice man with a kind soul. But the jury is still 'out' determining his legacy. I will be watching and cheering for him and I hope he is able to live up to the high standards that many heroes preceding him have constructed by building the pedestal on which he has been placed. It is only possible to look over the rainbow when standing on the shoulders of the giants who painted it. Let us thank all of our heroes; Billie Jean King, Harvey Milk, Wanda Sykes, Anderson Cooper, Melissa Ethridge, Neil Patrick Harris, Wilson Cruz, Rachel Maddow, Don Lemon, Dustin Lance Black and the thousands upon thousands of LGBT pioneers who have helped pave the roads of progressing equality -- we salute you.
As for Jason, we salute you too -- but look forward to seeing your 'A' game. In the meantime, don't forget to turn off the oven.
Follow Justin Reed Early on Twitter: www.twitter.com/justinearly