April 30, 2013

Equality Trailblazers: From Kenny Washington to Jason Collins

Gay NBA player Jason Collins fact file.
Historical Analysis: Whether it’s racial equality or gay rights, pro-sports lead by example.

By Roy Steele

In March of 1946, the UCLA Bruin’s first All-American football player, running back Kenny Washington, signed a contract to play for the National Football League’s (NFL) Los Angeles Rams. He was 27 years old, and the first African-American athlete to don a uniform in the segregated world of  professional sports.

In April of 1947, Kenny Washington’s UCLA Bruin teammate, 28 year old Jackie Robinson, started at first base for Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Brooklyn Dodgers.  

These two heroic black athletes broke the color barrier in the NFL and MLB. It wasn’t easy for either man to be the first. It would be a lie to say that these men had an easy time of it, and I don’t want to sugar coat the challenges they faced as pioneers in the civil rights movement.  

It was the desegregation in professional sports  that provided the impetus for President Harry S. Truman to issue Executive Order 9981 in July 1948, which ended segregation in the US armed services.

While professional sports were integrated, it was nearly 20 years before
Congress enacted the Civil Rights Act in July of 1964, which outlawed racial discrimination. It would be naive of me to say that a law ended racial discrimination, because there’s ample evidence in our society that there are bigots everywhere. Luckily they’re a small minority, with no influence on the majority of Americans who believe in and support racial equality.


As politicians in Congress allowed racism to flourish, the NFL and MLB led by example with integration. There are obvious parallels between the civil rights movement in the 20th century, and the gay rights movement today.

There are 34 states in the United States where an employee can be terminated because they’re transgender, and 29 states where an employee can be fired for being lesbian, gay or bisexual. LGBT Americans face inequality and discrimination all the time. When you consider that 68% of our states lack employment protections, and Congress continually rejects the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), the workplace can be a minefield for LGBT workers who consider coming out.

Over the last few years the National Basketball Association (NBA) has been at the forefront of fighting inequality and homophobia in professional sports. In April of 2011, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 by the league, after he called a referee a “fucking faggot” during a game against the San Antonio Spurs. A month later, Chicago Bulls forward Joakim Noah was fined $50,000 for saying “fuck you, faggot” during a game, to a Miami Heat fan.

NBA commissioner David Stern instituted a zero tolerance policy for homophobia in the league, which included a ban on gay slurs. The NHL, NFL, MLB, WWE, UFC, and MLS, have all followed the NBA’s lead in developing similar policies governing each sport, to promote tolerance and fight anti-gay bigotry.

Gay NBA player Jason Collins defends against Los Angeles Laker guard Kobe Bryant.
Commissioner Stern created an atmosphere in the league to promote tolerance and embrace diversity, in the player ranks as well as the bleachers. He made an extra effort to reach out to LGBT fans, and set an example that other businesses, government institutions, religious organizations, and institutions should emulate.

Yesterday, the NBA’s Jason Collins wrote “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black.  And I'm gay.” This revelation was written for the May 6th, 2013 edition of "Sports Illustrated".

Jason Collins is the first active professional athlete in a team sport to ‘come out.’ He’s smart, he’s brave, he’s courageous, and his public pronouncement  is nothing short of historic.

When Jason was asked why he came out while he was still an active +NBA player,
columnist 
wrote: 

Tired of being alone; tired of coming home to an empty house; tired of relying on Shadow, his German shepherd, for company; tired of watching friends and family members find spouses and become parents; tired of telling lies and half-truths -- "cover stories like a CIA spy," he says with his distinctive cackle -- to conceal that he's gay. He was also tired of ... being tired.
I think that the LGBT community can relate to Jason Collins, as we've all been there.

This is a fantastic day for professional sports, the NBA, and the LGBT community. More importantly,  it's a beautiful day for Jason Collins too, as he doesn't have to hide or be alone anymore.


straight talk in a queer world.         jiveinthe415.com              

© 2011 - 2013 JIVEINTHE415.COM
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Hero: The NBA’s Jason Collins Says “I’m Gay”

The May 6th, 2013 cover of "Sports Illustrated" featuring gay NBA player Jason Collins on the cover.

The Gay NBA Center Makes History


NBA center Jason Collins ‘came out’ as a gay man yesterday, in the pages of the May 6th, 2013 edition of Sports Illustrated. He’s the first active player in a professional team sport to come out, and this is a moment to celebrate.

In his very personal essay, he wrote:
I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I'm happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn't the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, "I'm different." If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand.
I realized I needed to go public when Joe Kennedy, my old roommate at Stanford and now a Massachusetts congressman, told me he had just marched in Boston's 2012 Gay Pride Parade. I'm seldom jealous of others, but hearing what Joe had done filled me with envy. I was proud of him for participating but angry that as a closeted gay man I couldn't even cheer my straight friend on as a spectator. If I'd been questioned, I would have concocted half truths. What a shame to have to lie at a celebration of pride. I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore. I want to march for tolerance, acceptance and understanding. I want to take a stand and say, "Me, too."
Loyalty to my team is the real reason I didn't come out sooner. When I signed a free-agent contract with Boston last July, I decided to commit myself to the Celtics and not let my personal life become a distraction. When I was traded to the Wizards, the political significance of coming out sunk in. I was ready to open up to the press, but I had to wait until the season was over.
A college classmate tried to persuade me to come out then and there. But I couldn't yet. My one small gesture of solidarity was to wear jersey number 98 with the Celtics and then the Wizards. The number has great significance to the gay community. One of the most notorious antigay hate crimes occurred in 1998. Matthew Shepard, a University of Wyoming student, was kidnapped, tortured and lashed to a prairie fence. He died five days after he was finally found. That same year the Trevor Project was founded. This amazing organization provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention to kids struggling with their sexual identity. Trust me, I know that struggle. I've struggled with some insane logic. When I put on my jersey I was making a statement to myself, my family and my friends.
The most you can do is stand up for what you believe in. I'm much happier since coming out to my friends and family. Being genuine and honest makes me happy.
Pro basketball is a family. And pretty much every family I know has a brother, sister or cousin who's gay. In the brotherhood of the NBA, I just happen to be the one who's out.
Jason didn’t have to wear number 98, and he didn’t have to come out while he’s an active player, but he made a conscious decision to do both - and I applaud him for it.

It’s not going to be a yellow brick road as an out player in the NBA, and I can hear the slurs and catcalls from fans as I write this. Jason doesn’t know this yet, but the LGBT community is going to be right there with him, cheering him on.

Gay professional athletes in the NBA and other sports will be watching him closely, and let’s hope that this historic precedent opens the doors for many more to come.


straight talk in a queer world.         jiveinthe415.com              

© 2011 - 2013 JIVEINTHE415.COM
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Jive 5: Five Jason Collins Stories You Need To Read About Him Saying "I'm Gay"

The Atlanta Journal Constitution's April 30, 2013 editorial cartoon by Mike Luckovich that depicts Jason Collins "Coming Out"

If you only read five articles about NBA center Jason Collins announcement that he’s gay, I would recommend that you read these five.
1. In the last 24 hours since Jason Collins came out, hundreds of articles have been written about his pronouncement that he’s gay. In his Sports Illustrated personal essay, which was written with Franz Lidz, I was brought to tears. I highly recommend reading “Why NBA center Jason Collins is coming out now.”

2. Fox News columnist Sam Gardner reached out to Matthew Shepard’s parents, who were unaware that Jason wore number 98 to honor their son’s memory. It’s a touching and heartwarming column, so be sure to check out “Collins’ act wows victim’s parents.”

3. Jason Collins has a straight twin brother who was his teammate in high school and college. Jarron Collins played for 10 years in the NBA, and he writes in Sports Illustrated that “I’ve never been more proud of my brother.”

4. ESPN writer Kevin Arnovitz asks “In which workplace, family, school or community would we not want someone to feel like the best version of himself and committed to his well-being?” Writing for the True Hoop blog, “Jason Collins and the pride of identity” is worth reading.

5. Martina Navratilova wrote an opinion piece for Sports Illustrated and contends that “Jason Collins is a game changer.” I agree wholeheartedly.


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© 2011 - 2013 JIVEINTHE415.COM
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Jive 5: The Five Most Popular Blog Posts Of March 2013

A view of downtown San Francisco from a park bench in the Castro district's Dolores Park.


The 5 most popular blog posts in March 2013 are related to cyberbullying, 2 posts related to gay marriage, questions about NFL prospects sexuality, and a summary of LGBT news stories.






I really appreciate that people are still discovering this blog. While page views continue to increase,  marketing and promotion isn’t my strong suit. I try different things to encourage sharing links and news stories via social networks, and have only had limited success. If anyone has any tips or suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

Cheers!

straight talk in a queer world.         jiveinthe415.com              

© 2011 - 2013 JIVEINTHE415.COM
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April 27, 2013

Rhode Island Is On The Cusp Of Marriage Equality

The state of gay marriage in the United States as of April 27th, 2013 by jiveinthe415.com.

The state of Rhode Island will be the 10th US state to legalize gay marriage, when the General Assembly reaffirms their support for marriage equality, next week.

The marriage equality bill passed in the state Senate 26 - 12. The House Judiciary committee is scheduled to vote on the legislation on Tuesday April 30th, and the full House will vote on the final bill on Thursday May 2nd. Governor Lincoln Chafee will sign the bill after passage, and the law will be effective on August 1, 2013.

Governor Chafee issued a statement after the Senate vote.
I am always proud to be a Rhode Islander, but never more so than today.
Pending the final vote by the House of Representatives, Rhode Island will no longer be an outlier in our region. We will have the welcome mat out. We will be open for business, and we will once again affirm our legacy as a place that is tolerant and appreciative of diversity.
Well done Rhode Island!


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© 2011 - 2013 JIVEINTHE415.COM

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April 24, 2013

Marriage Equality: France Says "I Do" To Gay Marriage And Some Good News Here At Home Too

Gay Marriage Update - France approves gay marriage - the Eiffel Tower in spring, in Paris France.
The Front Lines: The state of marriage equality in France, Rhode Island, Delaware, Nevada, and Colorado


1. Vive La France! France became the third country in four weeks, and the 14th country in the world, to pass legislation legalizing gay marriage, when their lower house of Parliament voted in favor of a “marriage for all” law 331 - 225. The same-sex marriage law is expected to be effective in June 2013. Marriage equality has been a contentious issue in this largely Roman Catholic country. There have been nationwide protests on both sides of the issue for the last six months, and anti-gay violence has been on the rise. Félicitations mes amis Français!

2. Rhode Island’s Senate Judiciary Committee voted 7 - 4  in favor of their gay marriage bill on Tuesday, and the legislation now moves to the full Senate. The full state Senate has scheduled a vote for later today (Wednesday). After the full Senate approves the measure, it will return to the General Assembly for a vot.  Gay Speaker of the House Gordon D. Fox said the bill might fly through the lower House, and it could be on Governor Lincoln Chafee’s desk early next week.

Governor Chafee issued a statement in support of the gay marriage bill:
“Marriage equality legislation has now come farther than ever before in the Rhode Island Senate. Rhode Island currently stands as an island of inequality in our region. At this time of intense economic competition, we cannot afford to lag behind our New England neighbors and New York in this important area. There is still work to be done. Over the next 24 hours, I encourage Rhode Islanders to contact their Senators to urge passage of a bill that chooses tolerance and fairness over division and discrimination. I believe that when the roll is called, marriage equality will become law in Rhode Island.”
3. The Delaware House of Representatives narrowly approved their gay marriage legislation by a vote of 23- 18 yesterday. The bill repeals a 1996 same-sex marriage ban, and replaces the state’s 2011 civil unions law. The marriage equality bill now moves to the state Senate, where the vote is expected to be even closer, and passage is not guaranteed. Governor Jack Markell has promised to sign the same-sex marriage measure upon passage.

4. On Monday, the Nevada state Senate began the process of repealing the constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriages. The process is expected to take approximately 3 years. During the floor debate, State Senator Kelvin Atkinson (D-North Las Vegas) announced to the chamber that "I’m black. I'm gay. I know this is the first time many of you have heard me say that I am a black, gay male.” And in that instant, Atkinson publicly came out.  The first step of the repeal passed the Senate by a vote of 12 - 9.

5. In Colorado, the state’s new civil unions law takes effect at midnight on May 1, 2013. A celebration and ceremony has been scheduled for Denver’s Webb Building from midnight to 2:00AM. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock will be the officiant at some of the first civil unions to be performed in the state.

April 23, 2013

The Heartbreaking Truth About Teen Suicide

A teen girl is holding up a sign asking for help  - the heartbreaking truth about teen suicide

I haven’t been writing about the many teen suicides that are still plaguing communities across the country, in every state from coast to coast.

I’ve refrained from writing about bullying and teen suicides , because I’ve said it all before, and I don’t want to be insensitive to any family members or friends of suicide victims. I know that they read this blog, and I’m very sensitive to their plight. No one is to blame in the majority of these tragic cases, and the surviving family members beat themselves up enough, and I don't want to add to their grief.

Young deaths are tragic, and the similarities between each reported suicide is incredibly sad, because in many instances, the suicide was probably preventable.

What bothers me the most when I read about these teen tragedies - are the fact that in nearly every instance - the suicide is attributed to bullying at school - and 9 times out of 10 that assertion is wrong.

Remember - I’m not making that statement to criticize or blame anyone. Academic and scientific research shows that there’s a correlation between bullying and major depressive disorders. The bullying triggers depression, and that sets off a chain of emotionally challenging events in adolescents, and they rarely have the skills to navigate these emotions.  

Verbal taunts and threats of physical violence, also contributes to feelings of low self-esteem and depression among teenagers. Many victims have reported feeling lonely, isolated, and hopeless about their future. In addition, many of these kids feel that they don’t have an adult or teacher that they can speak to or confide in.

Children are very perceptive, and are affected by conflicts at home. Whether it’s marital discord, financial difficulties, divorce, child custody fights, arguments, or moving from one place to another, these external influences contribute to a child’s stress, and can trigger a bout with depression.

A bully and the bullied are both experiencing the conflict and stress, and when you combine all of these stressors I described together, their mental and physical health are severely impaired. That impairment can lead to a child to think about suicide, and it’s important to get that child medical treatment, as soon as possible.

When we think of a child’s well being, we have to think beyond getting a kid to school on time, doing their homework, and feeding and clothing them. Their emotional well being, their mental health, and physical health are just as important.

Bullying won’t disappear overnight, and there’s no ready cure for it, though you can be rest assured that some of the best minds in the nation are working on it.

Suicide is largely preventable. If our society would stop demonizing people with mental health problems, and we could remove the social stigma surrounding treatment, everyone would benefit. We’d have less suicides and live among more well-adjusted and happy people.

Parents and teachers have to remain vigilant, and pay close attention to the mental health of kids in their charge. That’s not easy, but you can talk to your doctor about it if you’re unsure of what that means.

We have to keep speaking out, and demand that our schools are being proactive in establishing anti-bullying policies and programs.

Losing a child to suicide is unacceptable. Let’s keep talking about the symptoms, because that will lead to a cure.

There were 4 teen suicides widely reported over the last couple weeks, and my heart goes out to their families, and they’re in my thoughts and prayers.

RIP Nigel Hardy, 13
Palmdale, California

RIP Audrie Pott, 15
Saratoga, California,

Danville, New Hampshire

Halifax, Nova Scotia


The Trevor Project Lifeline for teens is staffed 24/7, and if you or someone you know is depressed or contemplating suicide, call  866-488-7386.

TeenLine online is operated by teens for teens, and teenagers can call them at 800-852-8336, or find them online by clicking here.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 1-800-273-8255.

I consulted the “Families for Depression Awareness” website, the PsychCentral website, and the Teen Help website, for research and facts.


straight talk in a queer world.         jiveinthe415.com                
© 2011 - 2013 JIVEINTHE415.COM
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