With three short sentences in this week’s issue of Sports Illustrated, Jason Collins became the first pro athlete to announce to the world that he is gay. With those three sentences — “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.” — Collins has joined a growing cacophony of (and this is significant) black voices, from the last outposts of homophobia, the hyper-masculine arenas of professional team sports and rap and R&B music. He joins the likes of grammy award winning musician Frank Ocean and rapper Angel Haze, who have casually and unapolegetically mentioned their homosexuality and bisexuality to the world, almost in passing, as though being gay or bisexual were natural ways to be — which, of course they are. Ocean’s and Haze’s nonchalance are sweet, beautiful, powerful things. Chalk it up to their youth. Haze is 21, Ocean is 25, which makes them the first generation to live their whole lives in a time when people were out.
Collins is 34 and it shows, in both the formal nature of his announcement and the traditional forum in which it appeared. This is not to diminish the power of Collins’ announcement. It is to recognize what it means that he lived so long in the closet before coming out. Times they are a changing, as Ocean and Haze’s ease with their own sexuality makes clear. They didn’t exit the closet because they were never in.
Collins, Ocean and Haze do have one thing in common. They are all African-Americans who took a risk in being out. To appreciate the magnitude of the risk, you need only understand that the African-American community (as well as the Evangelical Christian community) have been slow to embrace the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT). That is changing, of course, with lightning speed. Under the leadership of Benjamin Jealous, the NAACP came out in support of Marriage Equality last year. President Obama, whose second inaugural address connected the dots between women’s rights, Civil Rights and gay and lesbian rights, has been a champion of gay & lesbian rights. Even Snoop Lion (formerly known as Snoop Dogg) has gotten on the band wagon with his vocal his support of the LGBT community. In an interview with VH1′s Big Morning Buzz host Carrie Keagan, Snoop Lion predicted that “in the near future [acceptance of gay and lesbian artist in hip hop] will happen because everybody is open for everything. It’s so much race relations going on, it’s so much unification going on in music and in life in general. We have people crossing up and becoming a part of each other’s culture.”
From the mouths of Lions. The Interconnectedness Revolution (as I call it) has begun, and athletes and musicians like Collins, Ocean and Haze are leading the way.
PHOTOGRAPHY via Fox Sports, The Angel Haze Official Website and The New York Times
PAULA PURYEAR is a Lawyer, Film & Television writer, HuffPoster and Founder of Revel In It Mag.