It seems timely that amidst the week that has just been, today is International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT).
Just a week ago I was like a lot of other people gripped to social media following the NFL draft, and the rise of Michael Sam. The drafting of Michael Sam to the St. Louis Rams was a truly monumental achievement for the history of sport, the LGBT community, and the identity and visibility struggles that have occurred, especially in the world of sports.
The drafting of Michael Sam was international news, and it should have been! Michael Sam broke the biggest barrier that gay athletes have faced in the world of sport, masculinity vs sexuality. There has been a stigma that a gay athlete may not be as strong, or as tough as a heterosexual athlete. The stigma was that a gay athlete can't hit, a gay athlete can't be aggressive, and that a gay athlete is a weak athlete. Many people knew before Michael Sam was drafted that this simply isn't true, but now that Sam is drafted the evidence is clear. If you can hit, run, jump, and hustle, and you are gay, then you can hit, run, jump, and hustle like anyone else, your sexuality is not a weakness, it does not make you a weaker athlete.
A few weeks ago I had someone say to me that 'this year is the year it all ends'. I took some time to think and concluded that sadly 2014 is not the end of the civil rights movement for LGBT human beings. I believe we are merely on the forefront of LGBT history in this country. It has been 45 years since the Stonewall riots, and the beginning of the liberation for the modern day LGBT human rights movement. 45 years, and yet here we are with only 17 States that permit same-sex marriage, 3 openly gay professional athletes in Michael Sam, Jason Collins, and Brittney Griner, and here we are with Russia, India, and Uganda implementing aggressive and oppressive laws towards LGBT people.
Will 2014 be the end of homophobia, sadly not. The day where homophobia ends may not be just around the corner, but with strong changes in visibility and identity, we inch closer to the day where children can go to school and be themselves, we inch closer to the day where two men or two women can get married in every single state in the country, and we inch closer to acceptance being a description of the past and instead we are all identified by who we are and not by who we love.
Having athletes such as Michael Sam, Jason Collins, and Brittney Griner, play in our pro major league sports allows young people everywhere to see that their sexuality is not a barrier to becoming a strong, proud, and confident person. Today we have so many LGBT role models portrayed in a positive way in pop culture, and the youth of today are truly growing up in a place where being gay isn't as scary or lonely as it use to be.
The ever growing visibility and identity not only changes the ideals of what gay means for LGBT people across the world, but for the fair and equal representation of LGBT people to the rest of the world. Seeing Jason Collins take the court in Brooklyn for his first home game as fans cheer and raise to their feet in applause and united was a moment that has inspired me and given myself and many others hope of our movement. If Jason was around when I was 16, seeing this would have helped me along my journey of self acceptance and understanding of who I was, and I know this was felt by many in the stadium on that night he took the court.
Collins, Sam, and Griner inspire us all, young and old, to accept ourselves in who we are. This is what we all fight for every day - gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and even straight, our internal thoughts and fears is what stops us from achieving acceptance. When a young person can go to school confident and proud of who they are, without the stigma they may face from their peers or from within their own ideals of who they should be, then we can say, 'this is the year it all ends.'