Coming out: Some closets are tougher than others

Ellen DeGeneres, Jim Parsons, Andy Cohen, Jane Lynch, Neil Patrick Harris – what do all of these Hollywood stars have in common? They are ridiculously funny and seriously successful. Additionally, in light of recent events, they are veterans of the act of coming out.

Within the last few weeks actress, Ellen Page and University of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam have been added to the list of celebrities who have gracefully come out to the world. However, there is a stark difference between Page’s coming out and Sam’s coming out: the respective subculture each is a part of.

Page is an actress, and therefore has had a long line of Hollywood stars ahead of her that have paved the way. While her act should still be considered brave, it cannot be considered revolutionary. Page knew that, although she may have to face some negativity to her coming out, she wouldn’t face an overwhelming amount of critics.

Many fellow actors and actresses even took to Twitter to compliment Page on her empowering speech at a Human Rights Campaign Foundation event. Her announcement of her homosexuality was easily accepted and, for the most part, unquestioned.

Page’s raw honesty demonstrated her personal struggle with coming out as she said, “I suffered for years because I was scared to be out. My spirit suffered, my mental health suffered and my relationships suffered. And I’m standing here today, with all of you, on the other side of all that pain.”

On the other hand, Sam’s coming out can be considered more of a risky move. The subculture that Sam came out to is one of burly, tough men that don’t have a reputation for acceptance of homosexuality. Furthermore, he did so before the NFL draft in May. Should Sam be drafted, he would become the first openly gay player in NFL history.

Sam handled this situation with a perfect balance of poise, collectiveness and outright confidence, declaring, “I am an openly, proud gay man,” in interviews with ESPN and The New York Times. While Sam’s story has had considerable amounts of positive feedback, there has been negative feedback as well.

According to Sports Illustrated Magazine, an NFL player personnel assistant stated, “I don’t think football is ready for (an openly gay player) just yet. In the coming decade or two, it’s going to be acceptable, but at this point in time it’s still a man’s-man game. To call somebody a (gay slur) is still so commonplace. It’d chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room.”

If a comment like this would have been made in the social subculture that Hollywood celebrities come out in, the community would likely rally to defend whoever is facing the negative comments; hence why Page’s coming out is monumentally different than Sam’s. For many people, including DePaul freshman Emily Becker, Sam coming out should be regarded as a moment to be respected.

“Sam is so confident with his sexuality and that is really respectable, especially in the context of his life,” Becker explained. “I think that shunning him would be a bad reflection of your own personal character.”

But alas, it’s possible that many NFL teams may take Sam’s sexuality into account when considering whether or not to draft him this spring. Although the coming out process has become a widely accepted act within the last few years, certain subcultures of our society still need brave people like Sam to continue to pave the way and break barriers for homosexual acceptance.

Until the act of coming out becomes something that doesn’t warrant so much media attention and dissent in the realms of sports, business, education or other subcultures that are hesitant to homosexual acceptance, coming out will still be considered a significant statement.

Although I applaud these strong people for their confidence and self- realizations, I still hold hopes for a day when people don’t have to declare their sexuality, but rather can live their lives out as who they truly are, no questions asked.