An Open Letter To Jason Collins: I’m A 25-Year-Old Follower Of Jesus. I’m Black. And I Grew Up Wondering If I Was Gay
Earlier this week, NBA player Jason Collins came out as the first openly gay professional athlete playing in a major team sport. A couple of weeks prior, No. 1 WNBA draft pick Brittney Griner made an announcement regarding her homosexuality as well, following in the footsteps of former WNBA star Sheryl Swoopes. Beyond sports, there was Frank Ocean last year and now rumors are swirling about singer Janelle Monae (who denies being gay, but opposes traditional gender norms). Not to mention, there is the ongoing debate about gay marriage, gay rights, and tolerance. Last year, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis even released a song called “Same Love,” which was a personal call for equality for gay couples in light of the rapper’s childhood wonderings.
In case you hadn’t noticed, the gay community has cemented their place in culture. But of course they haven’t done so without a fair share of controversy. Yet, from where I stand, all I see are two caricatures presented by the media— a voice of tolerance and a voice of hate. A group simply wanting people to be happy, and the opposition wanting to deny them of that inalienable right, and doing so with absolutely no compassion. If you’re gay, be gay! Or God hates gays, so go to hell! Those are the only options society gives us.
Yet, what I don’t think is being given a voice is the side of those who love gay people (and any other group of people), believe in human rights, but also ascribe to a faith that has transformed their own thinking and being—all the way down to challenging their own sexuality. This became apparent when Chris Broussard made his comments regarding Collins’ announcement. Although I understand why ESPN viewers could be bothered by Broussard’s religious commentary, considering they watch ESPN for sports and not sermons, I think it’s unfortunate that he’s now experiencing media martyrdom. I began asking myself what I would have done if (for some reason) ESPN asked me for my opinion. I’m not sure what would have come out of my mouth that particular day, but I know I would have tried to communicate a message of truth and love. And if I could write a response, instead, here’s what I would say in my open letter to Jason Collins, Brittney Griner, and every person that wants to be who they were meant to be:
I’m a 25-year-old follower of Jesus. I’m black. And I grew up wondering if I was gay.
Growing up as a tomboy, I never played with Barbie dolls (except for that MC Hammer figure I was geeked about); I played outside with boys instead; wore boys’ clothes; played basketball most of my life, and didn’t really like doing any girlie things including liking boys. I can recall being in middle school trying to figure out what was wrong with me. I even remember how awkward it was for me to have a boyfriend (for like 2 months). Was I supposed to feel something when he hugged me? Or that time he gave me a peck on the lips? Well, I didn’t. And if not for my ponytail, I’m sure we looked like two dudes walking down the street. I began wondering was I gay. My teammates were tomboys too, so I figured maybe we just represented a different type of female—a hybrid of genders perhaps. But as time went on, some of those teammates and other girls I’d played basketball with were now openly pursuing girls. They were gay. What did that mean for me? Confusion. But I didn’t decide that I too was gay. Why not? If it was something I could have decided, does that mean I never was? Is it because I grew up in church and heard being gay was a sin, so I never fully considered it an option? Or did I decide that I would fight to be whom I believe God created me to be despite any of my own thoughts or dispositions? What about one of my best friends or other individuals who once embraced a homosexual lifestyle, but don’t anymore? Does that make it a choice?