The Year of the Outhlete

With Dallas Pride just over and the Gay Softball World Series still going strong, it’s difficult not to see thing about how influential the Year of the Outhlete has been in our community. Indeed, tomorrow’s edition of Dallas Voice is even out Sports Issue to mark the occasion. So let’s hoist the rainbow flag, drink a toast (with the alcohol of a gay-friendly sponsor) and honor the LGBT athletes who exemplify Pride.

Toronto Raptors v Brooklyn Nets

The biggest — physically, anyway — is Jason Collins. The NBA player made us proud when he came out as the first active male pro sport athlete. Dozens of former teammates — and many opponents — made us just as proud when they tweeted sincere messages of congratulations the moment the news broke. The Brooklyn Nets made us proud when they signed him to a 10-day contract — not because he was gay, but because they needed a strong, experienced veteran to bring maturity to their locker room. Then the Nets liked him so much, they extended his contract. And NBA fans made us proud by making Jason Collins’ souvenir jersey the best-selling one in all of sports. Let’s go Nets!

Michael-SamAnother big story — physically, too — is, of course, Michael Sam. The University of Missouri star impressed us by coming out publicly a month before the NFL draft. (He’d been out to his team for a long time; they and their coaches made us proud by supporting him strongly, en route to a kick-ass season.) Mizzou fans stood out (and shattered East and West Coast stereotypes) with their fervent embrace of him. ESPN done good by showing him kissing his boyfriend after Sam’s name was called in the draft. And Sam made us very, very proud with that kiss.  It — and his tears of joy — were the exact same reactions as all the other macho, straight NFL draftees have. We are proud that all of America saw it, and prouder still that our own Dallas Cowboys saw fit to recruit him after the Rams cut him in training. Sam even turned up at Dallas’ Red Party last week.

When Robbie Rogers came out, soon after retiring from Major League Soccer, we were filled with pride. (He had a drink of water with the national team, too.) He made us even prouder when he returned to the sport, signing with the Los Angeles Galaxy. And soccer fans around North America — particularly those in the Cascadia region of Portland, Seattle and Vancouver — have made us tremendously proud by their heartfelt, vocal and very clever signs of support not just of Rogers, but of the entire “You Can Play”/gays-in sport movement. It takes a village — or, more appropriately, an entire stadium. And MLS has ’em.

Olympics Day 14 - DivingWe were proud when English Olympic diver Tom Daley came out … except, some of us were not proud because he didn’t exactly come out. He said, “Right now I’m dating a guy, and I couldn’t be happier.” Then he said, “Of course, I still fancy girls.” Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being bisexual … but Daley didn’t use the “B” word either. (Eventually we learned that the “guy” is Oscar winner Dustin Lance Black.) Some members of the LGBT community are proud to have a top-level athlete like Daley in our midst; others wish he’d embrace his sexuality more fully; still others point to his non-disclosure disclosure as a sign that times are changing for the better. Labels don’t matter, they say; just be proud of who you are.

We are proud of Brittney Griner, for sure. One of the greatest women’s basketball players of all time plays on our team. But while part we’re in awe of her talent, her competitiveness and her honesty, we’re saddened by the way female athletes are marginalized. Her coming-out announcement should have been huge news, on par with those of Collins, Sam and Rogers. In her sport, she’s even bigger than they are. But it wasn’t. We’re not proud that female athletes — and lesbians — still have a long way to go.

Mercury Welcomes Brittney GrinerWe are also not proud that the Winter Olympics were held in Sochi earlier this year. Russia’s gay rights record is abysmal, and President Vladimir Putin didn’t even pretend to whitewash it. Instead, he warned gay visitors not to spread “gay propaganda.” We were not proud that governments and Olympic committees around the world did not raise more of a protest. We were not proud that none of the athletes, or their allies, raised a rainbow flag in protest. On the other hand, we should probably be proud that the Russians did not arrest, intimidate or even harass any LGBT folks. Small victories and all that.

But that was winter. With the summer, and Gay Pride Week in Dallas last week, Pride has been busting out all over. Yet with all we have to be proud of, the most Pride-worthy folks are the men and women (and boys and girls) who are out and proud as college and high school athletes. They don’t get nearly as much attention as the Jason Collinses, Michael Sams and Robbie Rogerses. But they are our true, and very prideful, champions.

— Dan Woog and Arnold Wayne Jones

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Texas Longhorns swimmer comes out to teammates in email

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Matt Korman

“The last year has been a rather difficult one for me and I have spent a lot of time soul searching and trying to figure out which end is up. One thing in particular has taken me quite a long time to come to terms with, and I want to address it here and now because it’s way past due.”

So begins an email University of Texas swimmer Matt Korman sent to his teammates last week, telling them he’s gay, according to SB Nation.

The junior had reservations about coming out to his teammates, fearing they would reject him, although he had previously come out to his family. There was no backlash, however, and Korman said his team’s response was “amazing.”

“I’ve been totally blessed by this whole situation because it’s gone so well,” Korman said to SB Nation. “I’ve gotten zero negative feedback. There were a couple guys who always throw around the word faggot and try to make every situation as masculine as possible. We have guys from the middle of nowhere conservative Texas. But they’ve been like, ‘we’re totally fine, you’re still my friend an my teammate and good for you.”

Korman  competed for Texas Christian University but transferred to Texas before his sophomore year. He competes in the 100 and 200 breaststroke along with the 200 IM.

Read Korman’s full email:

Guys,

The last year has been a rather difficult one for me and I have spent a lot of time soul searching and trying to figure out which end is up. One thing in particular has taken me quite a long time to come to terms with, and I want to address it here and now because it’s way past due.

Within the past year, I have fallen into a state of depression, which has deeply affected my life. I have had a hard time sleeping at night, eating, and have lost a lot of interest in swimming. For the first time in my career, I was ready to quit swimming at the end of the summer. Not many people have noticed something has been wrong. The ones that did, I just blamed all the stress on my schoolwork, which has been my scapegoat. But, I miss sleeping at night; being happy and being the person I used to be when it didn’t really matter. Although this has been something I have known for a while, it hit me particularly hard more recently as I have realized that I’m not getting any younger and would like to start dating and enjoy the simple things of life that I have been missing out on. When I was younger I thought I was only curious or it was just a phase for me, but have come to terms that I’m actually gay. (There, I finally said it)

For a long time I tried to be someone that I am not. By opening up and talking about it I have learnt that this is normal and its okay to be who I am. I have accepted myself for who I am. There is nothing to be ashamed of. It is not something that I choose. It just is.

Please know that I am telling you this about myself because I love you guys and I really want you to know this important part of me. I was growing tired of all the lying, dishonesty, and pretending. You all have always been there for me and supported me in everything that I do. You are and forever will be my brothers. I simply couldn’t continue to hide this from you anymore because it was slowly killing me. I want you to know me for who I am. I pray that this will not change anything, but I know for some of you this is uneasy. I want you all to know that I am here to have an open dialogue. If you have questions or concerns please be honest with me as I am being with you. Do not hesitate to ask me questions if you have any (appropriate ones). I know this email has been a bit heavy and I apologize for that. All I can do is hope you will accept me for who I am and realize that I really haven’t changed. I am still the same me.

I love you guys & thank you for listening.

Best,

Matt

—  Steve Ramos

WATCH: Brittney Griner is ‘6-8 walking proof’ that it really does get better

Brittney Griner

Brittney Griner

Former Baylor basketball player Brittney Griner came out several weeks ago with little attention, but she’s already using her announcement to speak to LGBT youth in an “It Gets Better” video.

In the video, Griner talks about being different growing up and being teased because of it, but she says she’s “6-8 walking proof” that things get better.

“As somebody that grew up taller than everybody, a little bit different than everybody, always voiced my opinion on my sexuality and who I was as an individual,” she said. “I got teased. With big hands, a little deeper voice, big feet. … It was hard growing up but you have to find an outlet. Basketball was my outlet.”

Griner, the WNBA No. 1 Draft pick, wrote about her coming out experience to her family as a teen in The New York Times yesterday. She addresses that while she didn’t feel the need to come out publicly until recently, being gay doesn’t define her any more than being a basketball star defines her.

In the NYT piece, she expresses her pride in Jason Collins for becoming the first male pro-athlete to come out while still playing. But she doesn’t address the lack of attention she received when she came out compared to the media firestorm surrounding Collins’ announcement.

Collins was praised for his trailblazing declaration last week by national media. When Griner came out a few weeks before, people barely blinked, and only sports media covered it.

While female athletes are often assumed to be gay — especially if they are masculine — Griner certainly isn’t the first to come out. Tennis players Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova led the way in the ’80s. And major male sports have always attracted larger audiences and have been plagued with more homophobia.

Still, that’s no excuse.

When the No. 1 Draft pick in any sport comes out, it’s news. And it’s rude to assume masculine women athletes are lesbians. It’s just as offensive to assume a gay male athlete must retire before coming out.

But just as Collins broke the mold by coming out and still continuing his career, he’s set the pace for more male athletes to be true to themselves and come out still playing. That’s where I agree with Griner in her NYT piece. I, too, am “more optimistic than ever that people are ready” for more gay athletes to come out.

Watch the video below.

—  Dallasvoice

Mark Cuban wonders if he’s a homophobe

Cuban emphatically states his case.

Dan Devine over at the Ball Don’t Lie sports blog reported earlier today on Mark Cuban’s comment yesterday to “The Sports Guy” Bill Simmons for a recording of the podcast The B.S. Report. Winding down the weekend’s MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, Simmons and Cuban engaged in conversation of The KissCam which apparently took an awkward turn. From Ball Don’t Lie:

And then, as Carly Carioli of the Boston Phoenix wrote in a blog post accompanying an excellent feature story on the conference, “the atmosphere turned even weirder.”

… Cuban began telling the story of how he’d almost fired a Mavs employee for encouraging Dallas fans to do the wave. Cuban hates the wave. “I’d rather have 60 minutes of Kiss Cam,” he said, to laughs. Simmons has long been on record as being a fan of the Kiss Cam [...] and piped up in favor of it. “I like the Kiss Cam,” Simmons said.

“That’s because you and your boyfriend are always on it,” Cuban spat.

Chances are, if you’ve read or listened to content created by Bill Simmons over the past seven years, you’ve caught wind of the fact that he’s married to a woman, and that the two of them have children. Not that those things would, or do, preclude a man from also liking men and/or having boyfriends, but, y’know, for the record, there’s been no public indication that Bill Simmons is gay.

Devine later goes on to criticize Cuban’s remark as adolescent. By all accounts, it appears The Boston Phoenix’s Carly Carioli was first on the scene with this post, labeling the remark homophobic. Gay sports site OutSports labeled it distasteful.

Cuban posted this today in Blog Maverick explaining his side. From Cuban:

I made a mistake in making the comment. I wasn’t trying to be hurtful. It wasn’t a comment on anyone’s sexuality. It was just me trying to be funny. It wasn’t. I quickly realized it and tried to fix it. I hoped at the time I didn’t offend anyone.

This blog post is not about trying to defend what I said. I’m not trying to defend my sense of humor. I’m not trying to convince you I’m not a homophobe. I’m not trying to justify anything at all.

I guess what I am doing is admitting that at some level I am prejudiced and that I recognize that I am.  There are a lot of things in my life that I need to improve at. This is one of them. Sometimes I make stupid throw away comments that I quickly realize are wrong. It doesn’t happen often, but it happens. It was a mistake and I realized it. I learned from it.

I appreciate the straighties rushing to the side of the LGBT community when the homophobia bell alarms. That’s a nice feeling. We appreciate it. Really. But is this particular instance, that big of a deal? I mean, we do have a sense of humor.

—  Rich Lopez