Michael Sam story: Lessons to be learned on coming out

By Jillian Page
LGBT Perspectives editor

Michael Sam is seen at press conference after signing with the Montreal Alouettes in spring of 2015. (Photo: Michael Sam/Facebook)
Michael Sam is seen at press conference after signing with the Montreal Alouettes in spring of 2015. (Photo: Michael Sam/Facebook)

MONTREAL — Now that Michael Sam has stepped away from professional football and perhaps out of the limelight, citing mental health issues, some commentators are wondering if all the media attention he received along with the fanfare and negative reactions might make other sports people think twice before coming out of the proverbial closet. As in, it’s not worth all the hassles.

No doubt, some will think twice, not so much about coming out, but about how they do it. On the weekend, two more people in the sports world announced they are gay, with media headlines using the “First openly gay” phrase in both cases.

One, British rugby player Keegan Hirst, told the BBC he didn’t want  “to go on some kind of crusade,” and that he  hoped his decision to come out would “help break down stereotypes.” Somehow, I don’t think we’ll be seeing him on reality-TV shows or celebrity dance programs. Reportedly, the news has been well-received by the public.

The other, Milwaukee Brewers minor league prospect David Denson, also came out on the weekend, and it remains to be seen how the American media will play this up. Denson apparently has a long way to go before he plays in Major League Baseball, and we can only hope that the media don’t make his life a circus. Denson says he decided to come out after a teammate used a derogatory term for a gay male, the Slate website is reporting. Reportedly, his teammates and the Brewers organization have expressed support for Denson.

In both cases, the media could be the spoilers. But then again, the media — gossip rags excepted — can be put in their place. Denson and Hirst may see the Michael Sam story as an example of what can go wrong when the media are invited into your life, and tell them to back off. “It’s business as usual, folks. Let us do our jobs.”

Indeed, that’s how it is for the vast majority of people who come out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer. They simply want to get on with their lives; they don’t seek the limelight or any special sort of treatment. It’s business as usual for them, and they expect that from their colleagues.

And one day that’s how it will be for everybody who comes out, be they celebrities or not. That is the goal, isn’t it?

One day “coming out” will be met by EVERYONE with lukewarm congratulations and, perhaps, a stifled yawn . . .

****

“Let harmlessness be the keynote of your life.” — Alice Bailey

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