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Sexuality in athletics

Posted: April 30, 2013 9:50 a.m.
Updated: May 1, 2013 5:00 a.m.

Earlier this week, NBA player Jason Collins came out to the public as being gay. His announcement made headlines on just about every news website and blog that I scanned over and, of course, Facebook and Twitter were taken over with personal opinions regarding the subject. I support Collins and commend him on his bravery for deciding to “come out of the closet” and to be honest with the public about his sexuality. I’m proud of how far we as a society have come that key professional athletes are able to be open about who they are and are received with support from key leaders in our society.

Although Collins may be the first openly gay active NBA player, he’s not the first athlete in the spotlight to be honest about his sexuality. Brittney Griner, a women’s college basketball star who was drafted by the Phoenix Mercury has been open about her sexuality and recently signed an endorsement deal with Nike. Loyola University - Chicago women’s basketball coach Sheryl Swoopes was open about her relationship with a woman in 2005. My point in all of this is: where are all the headlines about athletes such as Griner?

Why is it that when a male athlete is honest about his sexuality it headlines every single publication and social media sphere? When a female athlete is honest about her sexuality, however, there might be a few “in other news” articles written on a few sports websites but nowhere near the amount of publicity received as Collins has. In July, U.S. Olympic soccer player Megan Rapinoe was open about her sexuality, yet I don’t remember really hearing too much about her announcement. And she is an Olympic athlete.

Why is it so much less surprising and shocking when a female athlete comes out then when a male athlete does so? In an interview, Rapinoe said that in female sports “it’s very open and widely supported. For males, it’s not that way at all. It’s sad.”

And it is sad. Not only because anyone in this day and age shouldn’t feel as if they can’t be open about who they are, public figure or not, but that it’s more acceptable for a female athlete to be gay than for a male athlete to be so. Why is that? Do people just assume that if a woman has notable athletic ability that is on par with a male’s athletic ability that she should be a lesbian? That if a female excels in athletics that there’s something more manly about her and she should be a lesbian? I’ve heard people utter the phrase “well of course she is” or “well that makes sense” upon hearing the news that a female athlete is gay. How does that make sense, though? Any individual more than likely excels in some way, whether it be musical ability, writing, sports or comedic value, everyone is good in at least one thing. Mine would be consuming Nutella and I’m OK with that. But I doubt that if I came out as being homosexual that anyone would say “oh that makes SO much sense! She is so good at eating Nutella!” I mean, they might, I don’t know, but I highly doubt it.

How have we reached the year 2013, a time where more and more people are in support of same-sex marriage and are working diligently to legalize it, but male athletes make headlines and shock the public with announcements of being gay and female athletes get a shoulder shrug? I believe that it shouldn’t be a shock either way -- male or female. I’m glad that Collins has received so much public support on his decision but I also think that this idea that “it makes sense” when a lesbian athlete comes out needs to be abolished. A person’s abilities, athletic or not, should have nothing to do with their sexuality. I hope one day soon we reach a point where a star athlete being honest about his or herself doesn’t make headlines because, well, there’s no reason for it to.

Dr. Seuss said it best when he said “today you are you, that is truer than true.”

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