Views & Voices

Gay athletes and celebrities who ‘come out’ – Are they heroes?

Jason Collins Kwaku Alston for Sports Illustrated

Jason Collins Kwaku Alston for Sports Illustrated

Do you consider Jason Collins a hero for coming out as the first professional gay male athlete?

What about Ellen DeGeneres or Anderson Cooper, Neil Patrick Harris or Rachel Maddow? Are they heroes?

First, let’s be clear on the definition of the word hero. defines the word hero as such: “a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.”

Jason Collins Kwaku Alston for Sports Illustrated

Conservatives certainly do not believe Jason is a hero. I’ve seen him called a “pervert,” a “fruitcake,” and a “publicity whore.”

And certain conservative evangelicals seem to be quite angry about Tim Tebow being told to keep the “Christian” thing toned down, while the gay “sinner” is being called a hero — and, for the moment, is the media darling.

The thing I have read the most however, is the heterosexuals wondering why it is we homosexuals feel that we must “announce” who we are.

I’ve been asked why we must have our own parades to announce who we are, and to this I always reply: “Why must you have parades to announce you’re an American (Patriots Parades) or Irish (St. Patrick’s Day) or why are there parades to celebrate Mardi Gras or Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas?”

Parades are all about pride, be it gay pride or American pride or turkey pride or Santa pride or making a river green for Irish pride. It’s about celebrating who and what you are.

If the gay pride parade offends you, don’t go. If you don’t believe in Santa, don’t go; if you’re German or French or Italian and think the Irish are just a bunch of drunk fools, then don’t go to ther parade. Just don’t question or mock why it is that someone celebrates someone or something.

Did you have a hero when you were a child? Someone you looked up to? Someone you wanted to be when you grew up?

I grew up in the 1950’s and 60’s, and in my little town there were absolutely no gay or lesbian figures for me to relate to in any way. Well, there was this one man, but everyone made fun of him and made him the brunt of sick jokes — so the only thing I knew was that I didn’t want to be like him.

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And for a child growing up knowing they feel different from their friends, knowing there is someone else like you in the world can make all the difference in their life.

If there had been an Ellen or a Rachel in my young life, I most certainly would not have felt so alone, so freakish and so isolated from the rest of the world.

So yes, perhaps Jason Cooper is a hero – perhaps not to everyone, but if there is that one African-American little boy who knows he is different and can look at Jason Cooper and understand he’s not alone in the world, and he’s not a freak or a pervert or a fruitcake, then in my eyes this makes him a hero.

As are Ellen and Neil and Rachel and Anderson, and all those who show us every day that gay isn’t something different – it just is. We just are.

Even in the world of 2013 where the whole concept of gay rights is evolving faster than any of us ever imagined, there is still the world of stupid — and we all know that you can’t fight stupid.

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