Commentary: Lifting burden took courage

Jason Collins, an NBA player for the Washington Wizards, admitted his sexual orientation on Monday, April 29. After coming out, he wrote a first person essay for Sports Illustrated which begins, “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.”

Collins received an outpouring of support from President Obama, Bill Clinton as well as the NBA community. On Twitter, Baron Davis, a point guard for the New York Knicks tweeted “I am so proud of my bro @jasoncollins34 for being real.”

Currently, Collins is one of many homosexuals who are openly gay and playing professional sports. The list also includes Olympic gold medalist and WNBA player Seimone Augustus as well as former NFL player Wade Davis.

“I think that it’s very encouraging that athletes are coming out as gay or lesbian or bisexual,” said DePaul sophomore Jessica Rodriguez. I think ever since Frank Ocean came out, more and more people are influenced to come out as gay,”

Prior to Collin’s announcement, UFC fighter Fallon Fox lived in secrecy as well.  Once trained as a man and now fighting as an anatomically correct woman, Fox decided to go public as the first transgender female in UFC history. In June 2012, the Association of Boxing Commissions drafted a transgender policy for the sport, the first of its kind.

While acting as a role model for the LGBTQ community Fox has received critical comments from fellow UFC fighter Matt Mitrone. In an April 8 interview with The MMA Hour Mitrone belittled Fox’s sexual orientation by stating that “She’s not a he. He’s a he.” He went on to call Fox “an embarrassment” and encouraged other female fighters to “beat his a–.”

The UFC denounced Mitrone’s remarks and suspended him. Shortly after he was able to submit an apology to the UFC as well as Fox which stated, “I want to apologize for my hurtful comments about Fallon Fox and a group within our society which, in truth, I know nothing about.”

“I don’t think that it was just insensitive because he didn’t know his place and he was just speaking out of terms where he didn’t have enough information,” said Joe Laskero, a senior at DePaul.  “I have no problem with it, but when it comes to safety. Women can be stronger than men but the way their muscles develop are just different.”

While the Association of Boxing Commissions was obligated to cater to the needs of the first transgender female in UFC history, the NHL has volunteered to create a gay-affirming policy called “You can play.” The policy, designed by Philadelphia Flyers scout Patrick Burke raises awareness and encourages tolerance in the locker room.

While more professional athletes and their leagues recognize the importance of gay and lesbian acceptance, the LGBTQ community can feel more secure. As professionals remove masks of self-identification and judgment, less sexual discrimination can exist in sports. If it is possible for professional athletes to recognize this, maybe regular people can do the same.