Jason Collins, 34, penned an article for the May 6 issue of Sports Illustrated and came out as gay. The letter written by the NBA free agent is an interesting read as it documents the NBA center’s struggle with his identity as a closeted black gay man. His story is very similar to retired NBA player John Amaechi’s except he has an identical twin brother who is straight.
I think this aspect of Collins story merits mention because it touches on the conversation about gays and genetics, whether we are born with or choose our sexuality in or out the womb.In the article Collins says he was in the closet “baking” for 33 years.
“I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay,” wrote Collins. “I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, ‘I’m different.’ If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.”
Collins’ brother Jarron, also an NBA center, had no idea he was gay. Collins said he felt a shift in their twiness when they were young, about the age of 12 or 13.
“I had a happy childhood in the suburbs of L.A. My parents instilled in us an appreciation of history, art and, most important, Motown,” Collins wrote. “Jarron and I weren’t allowed to listen to rap until we were 12. After our birthday I dashed to Target and bought DJ Quik’s album Quik Is the Name. I memorized every line. It was around this time that I began noticing subtle differences between Jarron and me. Our twinness was no longer synchronized. I couldn’t identify with his attraction to girls.”
Collins would come out to his brother 22 summers later.
“I didn’t come out to my brother until last summer,” Collins revealed. “His reaction to my breakfast revelation was radically different from Aunt Teri’s. He was downright astounded. He never suspected. So much for twin telepathy. But by dinner that night, he was full of brotherly love. For the first time in our lives, he wanted to step in and protect me.”
Collins history making announcment has its roots in LA where he was born and raised. Below he explains why he chose to come out.
“My journey of self-discovery and self-acknowledgement began in my hometown of Los Angeles and has taken me through two state high school championships, the NCAA Final Four and the Elite Eight, and nine playoffs in 12 NBA seasons.I’ve played for six pro teams and have appeared in two NBA Finals. Ever heard of a parlor game called Three Degrees of Jason Collins? If you’re in the league, and I haven’t been your teammate, I surely have been one of your teammates’ teammates. Or one of your teammates’ teammates’ teammates.Now I’m a free agent, literally and figuratively. I’ve reached that enviable state in life in which I can do pretty much what I want. And what I want is to continue to play basketball. I still love the game, and I still have something to offer. My coaches and teammates recognize that. At the same time, I want to be genuine and authentic…
Why am I coming out now? Well, I started thinking about this in 2011 during the NBA player lockout. I’m a creature of routine. When the regular season ends I immediately dedicate myself to getting game ready for the opener of the next campaign in the fall. But the lockout wreaked havoc on my habits and forced me to confront who I really am and what I really want. With the season delayed, I trained and worked out. But I lacked the distraction that basketball had always provided.
On the surface, it seems Collins came out because he was/is at a stand still in his life.When we are left with idle hands we must deal with our thoughts which, sometimes, makes us uncomfortable. Whatever the reasons, current movements or shifts in the culture, an opportunity to be the first openly gay US athlete, we’re happy Collins is out: he may save lives.