I am applauding Jason Collins today. More importantly I am providing a standing ovation to his twin brother, Jarron Collins, for his acceptance for who Jason is to him.
In a piece for Sports Illustrated, Jarron Collins made this statement about his brother Jason:
I won't lie. I had no idea. We talked, he answered my questions, I hugged him and I digested what he had told me. At the end of the day, this is what matters: He's my brother, he's a great guy, and I want him to be happy. I'll love him and I'll support him and, if necessary, I'll protect him.
Listen to the distinction in what Jarron is saying about his brother. Jarron stated that, "He (Jason) is my brother, he's (Jason) a great guy, and I want him to be happy." There is a clear acceptance of Jason's identity, and not some arbitrary "lifestyle" that many people describe as being gay. Jason is great brother and guy, who happens to be gay.
I am so inspired by Jason because it can be tremendously difficult to take the steps to being vulnerable. Not only is Jason revealing himself to his family, but also he has the courage to do so with millions of people worldwide. I recall a 2007 ESPN.com interview of former NFL player, Esera Tuaolo, who also described former NBA player, John Amaechi, when he revealed that he is gay. Tuaolo stated, "Living with all that stress and that depression, all you deal with as a closeted person, when you come out you really truly free yourself. When I came out, it felt like I was getting out of prison."
Being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer, intersex, or an ally is not something you can turn on and off. I ask this of many of the males that have issues with homosexuality. "Can you turn off your heterosexuality?" The usual response is, "No, I am all man," or something similar.
As a therapist, I have worked with many people who have struggled with their identities because of this very topic. A majority of the struggle lies in how they are being aggressively judged for not in the heterosexual majority. I have also dealt with people on a daily basis who state that our society has become to "warm and fuzzy," and people cannot speak their minds anymore. By all means speak your mind, but please be mindful of how you would feel if you were in this other's person's shoes. If that does not work attempt to relate to it through a personal narrative or experience.
I reminisce to my childhood, when I was a child in a predominantly all white private school. Everyday I felt I experienced racial prejudice either through direct statements or indirect actions by peers and adults. I truly just wanted to be recognized as existing or mattering. I longed to matter to my peers and adults as being equal, and that my color did not make me any different than them. I was a student, who wanted to learn, and have fun doing it.
I humbly subscribe to a man Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. described as an apostle of peace, Thich Nhat Hanh, who stated, "To be loved means to be recognized as existing."
It is truly that simple. Honor and recognize the other, or in this case, the LGBTQQIA community as existing. If this is a challenge for you I ask you to push pause, draw upon a personal narrative or experience that may place you in a position where your voice has been stifled, and use it as a metaphor.
Even in writing this blog, I am very mindful of my language, and ensuring that I am presenting my point in a non-judgmental manner. It is vital that we become aware of our own issues or "stuff," and attend to it. Jason Collins had to come out to help our society confront how we mask fear, violence, and judgment through the guise of religion, politics, or everyday comments such as, "that lifestyle." When it is all said and done, Jason revealing who he is has nothing to do with you. It is simply about Jason BE-ing Jason. Now ask yourself, why is that really such an issue for you?