Tag Archives: David Kopay

LGBT History Month 2013: Jason Collins and Robbie Rogers

5 Jun

CollinsRogersWhat a difference a year makes! Last summer there were no out gay men in professional team sports. Suddenly there are two, each of whom has made a significant difference in the national conversation. Professional athletics, especially male teams, is one of the last closets to be pried open.

Former Baltimore Raven and outspoken LGBT ally Brendon Ayanbadejo indicated that at least four gay NFL players were considering coming out as a group and had talked to him about strategy. Before that could happen, NBA star Jason Collins and soccer player Robbie Rogers boldly burst the doors open.

Collins became the first non-retired, publicly out man on a professional team just a month ago. Coming out in a long interview in Sports Illustrated, he spoke eloquently about the crippling power of the closet and the desire to be accepted as a complete human being. Reactions were all over the map, but generally positive. With a couple of notable exceptions, other NBA players have been very supportive, setting the stage for more out basketball players in the near future.

Barely a week ago, Robbie Rogers broke two barriers. Signing with the LA Galaxy, he became the first out major league soccer player. The very next day, he joined his team on the field, becoming the first publicly out gay man to play a team sport. As with Collins, other than some grumbling from the usual “Family Values” groups, Rogers has seen nothing but support.

The courage of these two men does nothing to diminish the many out athletes that came before them. Tennis stars Renée Richards and Martina Navratilova were early out players. Baseball’s Glenn Burke was out to his team while still playing — to the detriment of his career. David Kopay, Billy Bean, and John Amaechi all came out not long after retiring from football, baseball, and basketball respectively. Every out voice counts!

The macho image of male team sports has contributed to the long-standing homophobia in that arena. Collins and Rogers, building on the brave men and women who preceded them, have helped change that dynamic. Let’s hope that soon there will be too many out players to list casually. Until then, every move forward must be celebrated.


Hero of the Week Award: May 3, Jason Collins

3 May
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

It isn’t often that one of the week’s biggest stories coincides with a worthy hero, but this week it was an easy match. NBA free agent Jason Collins demonstrated courage and leadership by becoming the first publicly out male athlete in one of the big four team sports.

That’s a lot of qualifiers, because although sports is still one area where being out is less prevalent, there have been many pioneers. David Kopay and Billy Bean  both came out publicly after retiring. Martina Navratilova was one of the first out athletes still playing. Glenn Burke, sadly unknown to most people today, was out to his teammates and coaches while still playing, a decision that cost him his career. Building on the work of these men and women, Collins has taken things to the next level.

Not only did he come out very publicly, he did so as a cover feature in Sports Illustrated. That speaks volumes about how things are changing and how Collins’ courage should burst open some other athletic closets soon. Somebody had to take this step, and as Collins watched his straight friends participate in Pride activities and provide public support to the LGBT community, he realized it needed to be he:

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…

Thank you for raising your hand, Jason. Let’s hope a sea of hands rises with yours.  We need more wonderful role models in the LGBT community.

I also have to call attention to Jason’s honoring of the late Matthew Shepard.  Jason picked the number 98 for his jersey to honor Matthew Shepard.  Shepard was brutally murdered in October of 1998.

Honorable mention goes to the many people who took the time to congratulate Collins and provide him support. Hopefully this outpouring will embolden other players. Special mention goes to retired NFL player Leroy Butler. He was scheduled to provide a motivational speech at a Wisconsin church. His simple tweet of support to Collins resulted in the invitation being rescinded, costing him the $8500 speaking fee. Butler took the time to expose the church’s non-Christian behavior and reiterated his support. That’s a class act.

Celebrating LGBTQ History Month: June 17, Duncan Teague

17 Jun

Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to my friend Duncan Teague.  I have known Duncan for 15 years and have always admired and been inspired by his dedication to issues around social justice. He was quite resistant to allowing me to celebrate him and immediately protested: “I can think of so many other people we know that you should celebrate.”

Duncan  came out in high school to his friend, Crystal and the second person was his cousin. As with most coming out stories, his was/is a journey of continually coming out and celebrating who you are.

I came out to my parents when I was a junior in college, well actually my mother yanked me out.  A dear friend of ours was murdered and he was gay.  My mother sat me down in front of my father, I had just read the David Kopay story and it gave me the blueprint of how to come out…Gay rights to me was just standing up for our people, especially when there were so many gay people dying of  HIV.  Being politically active was not the goal, helping people was the goal.

Duncan is a minister with a Master’s degree in Divinity and is now pursuing a Full Fellowship as a minister for the Unitarian Universalist Church.  He has served as a lay minister at the church where Robert and I were married, the First Existentialist Church. His list of honors include: Grand Marshall of Gay Pride 1993 and  2001, Honoree of In The Life Atlanta, Black Gay Pride, Founding member (to present) of Community Advisory Board of Hope Clinic, Emory Vaccine Research, and the Auburn Research Library started the  Duncan Teague Collection, which is a collection of his historical papers documenting black and gay history in Atlanta.

Duncan is quick, of course, to thank a host of people:

I have to thank several people that helped me with this work, Phil Wilson, Reggie Williams, Anthony Antoine, malik m. l. williams, the late Tony Daniels, and Reverend Carolyn Mobley.  Carolyn was the first co-chair of the African-American Lesbian/Gay Alliance and had a profound effect on me, she was working with AID Atlanta, and she is a singer, and she pitches in where ever people needed help.

He wants his legacy to be:

that I lived a full life and that being out as a black gay man enriched it and it didn’t stop living a rich and full life and that I did something to prevent someone from getting HIV or that if someone already had that something I did made their life better.  Some of the most profound work I did, or “ministry” was as an artist, specifically The ADODI Muse: A Gay Negro Ensemble–this was a chance for me to put together my art life and my activism together.

Duncan thanks his husband David:

a major reason for the success I have had in the later part of my life has been because of my marriage and relationship with David.  We have established the kind of home and partnership that I always wanted.  We have grown folks adopting us because we are stable, not perfect, but stable and caring to each other and our friends as a couple.  My life for the last seventeen and a half years would be quite different in many ways without this kind of loving secure, base from which to operate.  I knew how to live fully without David, but better with David.

For more information about Duncan you can read the book Sweet Tea, by E. Patrick Johnson.

I want to thank Duncan and look forward to the many ways he will continue to make the world better for all.

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