Harvey Milk implored gay and lesbian people to, “come out, come out,” because he knew that visibility would help educate the larger public about the LGBT community. There was a time when LGBT people were seen as deviant or diseased, but through the power of coming out, the public at large have learned that LGBT people are their friends, neighbors, sons, bosses, co-workers and teammates.
As more and more people have come out, public opinion has shifted rapidly, and with it, public policy.
OutSports’ Cyd Ziegler recently interviewed former NFL player Ryan O’Callaghan and told his courageous but almost tragic story. It is a must-read, if you have not yet.
As a kid, Ryan believed that suicide was a better alternative then living his life honestly as a gay man. It’s hard to believe that kids these days are still getting that message.
Ryan hid his secret by playing football, starting at the High School level, and it turns out he was pretty good at it. Good enough to be recruited by UC Berkeley and drafted by the New England Patriots.
As his career came to a close, Ryan approached the team doctors, who confidentially counseled him and suggested that he try coming out to friends and family to see the reaction–and it wasn’t as bad as he feared. The courage to come out literally saved his life.
As a community, we cannot control the messages that religious leaders or others send to LGBT youth, but we can control what we say and how we say it.
Positive stories like Ryan’s will make it possible that we will one day soon have an “out” sports hero, and it won’t be a big deal.
But as Harvey Milk said, “you gotta give ’em hope!”