On April 29 NBA player Jason Collins became the first athlete currently active in one of the four major U.S. male sports leagues to reveal that he's gay. Good for him. Collins followed his feelings (at least I assume that he did) and opened up to others about his sexuality. Anytime a person acts instinctively and freely, the results will prove productive. However, what Collins' actions shouldn't do is encourage others to mindlessly follow suit. Coming out of the closet is neither right nor wrong in itself. Like all behaviors and decisions, the state of mind from which a person acts will always determine its effectiveness.
My message about Collins is indeed quite different from what we've heard over the past several weeks. For example, I watched tennis great Martina Navratilova claim that Collins' coming out is destined to help prevent teen suicide because one third of all teen suicides are by gay teens who are afraid to open up. But that's not how it works. Teens, gay or straight, who understand that their feelings come from their own thinking and not from anything else will overcome their insecure thoughts (about anything) and thrive. Those who mistakenly believe that their feelings come from the world outside will fall prey to the attitudes of that world.
What's even more important, I believe, is to point out that Collins is no different from you or me. His troubles, and ours, are created for one reason: He thinks. In spite of our biological characteristics, upbringing or personality, for everyone, thought is the link between happiness and despair. Those who understand that our reality is shaped by the ever-changing nature of our thinking will navigate smoothly through life no matter what thoughts occur to them -- or what they do in private. In fact, to me, the more we talk about what we have in common (every human being is blessed with, and challenged by, the power of thought), as opposed to talking about our conjured-up differences (gay, straight, black, white, foreign, domestic, tall, short, fat, skinny, rich, poor), the more peaceful and giving the world will become.
OK, Jason Collins is a gay pro athlete. And? Being gay doesn't define him or anyone else. Does Collins understand not to believe the thoughts that randomly pop into his head? Does he get that his feelings come from his thinking and not from his sexual orientation? Does he set a resilient example for others (as Jackie Robinson and Martin Luther King did)? At first glance that seems to be the case. If I'm right, then let's look to him as an example of clarity and courage. That's what defines Jason Collins.
Here's what really hit me when I heard the news about Collins' coming out: We're all the same, people; it's time to get our act together. Any differences between us are purely the byproduct of thought -- all made up.