Thoughts about Jason Collins and his historical moment

jason collins

Congratulations to Jason Collins for being comfortable and brave to admit his sexual orientation in a public manner. The thirty-four old NBA center made history yesterday when his personal essay for Sports Illustrated leaked to the press and other media outlets, marking him as the first openly gay professional team sport athlete. Here are my thoughts and concerns as this story makes its way through our media’s digestive track.

  • As this Ted Talk illustrates the key to a movement is actually the second person. Who will follow Collins’ courageous first step and announce their sexual orientation? Once that happens, I hope the flood gates will open and America can begin to openly discuss and accept (not tolerate…I strongly dislike that word when we discuss differences…I can tolerate playing basketball on a sprained ankle, whereas I can accept one’s humanity) gay athletes.
  • Bill Clinton wrote yesterday, “It is also the straightforward statement of a good man who wants no more than what so many of us seek: to be able to be who we are; to do our work; to build families and to contribute to our communities,” in praise of Jason Collins’ admission. While I agree with him, I am weary of the use of “good man.” I worry that while Clinton in trying to challenge the way we think of gay athletes, unfortunately reinforces the idea of gay as “bad.” His statement would have still been as powerful with the omission of “good man” because regardless of Collins’ sexuality he is a good person; the two, goodness and sexuality, should not be linked.
  • Collins coming out has a “where were you when…” feel to it. I was in my car, listening to ESPN talk radio when I first heard the news. The announcer stressed that he was not gay, but supported Jason Collins. It struck me as odd that he felt the need to confirm his heterosexuality as he supported an openly gay athlete. Pay attention to that throughout the subsequent commentary.
  • Lastly, while I disagree with those who for various reasons (i.e. bigotry, religion, etc) condemn homosexuality, I do believe that in the spirit of diversity they should be able to share their thoughts and opinions. While it pains me to write that sentence because I worry about the hatred that they may spew, it is within their rights to voice their opinions. Likewise, it is in my rights to disagree with them.

In the words of the famous philosopher from Brooklyn, Jay-Z, “What you eat, don’t make me shhh…Where’s the love?”

I am thankful that Jason Collins found the inner strength to share such a private matter in such a public manner to help push the conversation about homosexuality, sports, masculinity, and the various interconnected threads forward. Who he decides to sleep with does not affect me anymore than it affected it yesterday; likewise, who I decide to sleep with does not affect him. I appreciate his decision to live authentically and hope that others, regardless of sexual orientation, can learn from his example: Be who you are and love who you are because you deserve it!

Why I’m Single

After my now-married homegirl introduced me to her then-finance, I leaned over to her and asked, “Are you sure he’s the one? Are you ready?” She responded with a warm smile, “I’m ready and I love him.” As she continued, her expression changed and seemed an odd mix of pensive thought and welcomed relief, “But I know if I met him while he was in his twenties, it would have never worked out between us because he was not ready then.” I shook my head in agreement, thinking I understood what she meant since I was a single, Black male in my twenties, living in New York City. However, retrospectively, I wish I would have continued that conversation for more insight; she was onto something profound and I missed it.

The other day, while driving with my mother, she told me that “I’m the kind of man that she would not want to date.” When I asked her to explain, she simply stated, “You’re selfish…not in terms of giving, but you don’t like to be bothered with things you don’t like.” I laughed at her response and coldly mumbled, “Isn’t everyone?” I even got vindication from my bestfriend, less than an hour later, when I told him about our brief interaction.

Her words clearly left an impression, striking some chord inside of me; they ruminated in my mind for a couple of days.

When I first started to think about being called ‘selfish,’ I was hella defensive: how could she say I am selfish? I give so much of myself to those that I love. She must have me mistaken because ‘selfish’ wouldn’t be an adjective that I would ever think of using to describe myself. I give this; I do that.

When her words wouldn’t leave my mind’s space, I became hella pensive: could she be right? Maybe she sees something that I clearly don’t see? Maybe it’s something that I clearly don’t want to acknowledge? Would the women I’ve dated agree with her statement? Am I too concerned with me? Am I not concerned enough with ‘her?’

Finally, I was hella honest: I am selfish; I’ve been selfish for roughly three years, marked by the end of my last serious relationship. I give my everything in committed relationships, so much so that I feel that I lose myself, forgetting ‘me’ because I am more concerned with my partner. So when my last relationship ended, I made a conscious decision that I would be invested in ‘me’ first.

And I have been, unapologetically.

Every relationship that I have been in over the last two and a half years, I have ended: the timing was not right for me; for me, I wasn’t ready to take to it the next level; not sure how this relationship will work for me. It all sounds like a remixed version of Jan Brady’s rant: me, me, me.

In the unreleased version of “Hey Papi,”Jay-Z raps, “And me? I over did it.” In that final verse, Jay-Z ponders if he went too far with his ‘playa’ ways (Note: I am miles away from Jay-Z’s playa-ness; he’s probably forgotten about more girls than I’ve ever known). However, I wonder if I over did it when I decided to be more selfish. My intention was to love myself so that I could love whoever was in my life. I truly believe that one has to love oneself first and foremost before one can love another. But the adage, “good intentions pave the way to hell,” may be applicable here because in turn I may have unconsciously built up a defensive mechanism to shield me from the hurt that I previously experienced when I was lost in love, all under the guise of ‘self-love.’ As a result, I have yet to test out this new ‘self-loving me’ within a committed relationship: Have I grown? Can I withstand loving someone else while holding onto to ‘me?’

Those last two questions may as well be rhetorical questions because I do not have an answer for them. Heck, I don’t even know how to start to answer those questions.

Now, as the finish line of my twenties gets closer (note: turning twenty-nine on the 29th), I know for sure that I’m not ready for marriage; I am selfish and unprepared. However, more importantly, I want to be ready. More introspective moments like these are definitely needed.

“Ay yo, I got a resolution…This year I’m playing right
No six fifteen this year, you can stay the night.
We can go bowling, it ain’t like before
Can’t you see that I’m growing? I was so immature.” -Jay-Z, “Hey Papi”