My brother-in-law Marcelo struggled mightily coming out of the closet. While I and a handful of his closest friends and relatives knew he was Gay, he kept his true self hidden until he was 31. The combination of Brazilian culture and a male-dominated family made coming out seem impossible to Marcelo.
A little more than two years ago, he had enough. With the support of those of us who knew his secret, he came out to everyone. And for a man who had lived in pure terror of his true self being public, the end result was glorious. Marcelo was embraced as the man he is, and congratulated for having the courage to come out.
“It was like a fart in the ocean,” Marcelo said.
Last week, American professional soccer player Robbie Rogers announced he was a Gay man. In doing so, Rogers became the rare athlete in a team sport to come out. And while the taboo of Gay male professional athletes in team sports may remain, the reaction by Rogers’ fellow players was quick and positive:
The reactions to Rogers’ announcement came fast and furious and showcased how far American sports have come. And while Rogers said he was retiring from soccer, his former coach made it clear he was welcome back whenever he was ready.
“Yesterday I thought he was a very good player, and I still think that today,” Chicago Fire coach Frank Klopas said in a team statement. “Should Robbie want to return to the game, we would still be open to him being part of the Fire.”
I have written about the absence of openly gay male players in American team sports. It has long been groused upon that a Gay athlete would be a nuisance to the team and a divider in the locker room. The reactions to Rogers’ announcement shows that today’s athletes are more than ready to accept a Gay teammate.
For those who have complained about celebrities coming out of the closet, this should be proof of why it matters. Today’s athletes have known Ellen DeGeneres and Neil Patrick Harris and other LGBTs for their entire lives. They have grown up less ignorant and more accepting of the LGBT community. This has led to athletes like Chris Kluwe and Brendon Ayanbadejo openly and loudly supporting marriage equality. And it has led to the outpouring of support for Rogers.
The fight obviously continues. Aside from marriage equality, there are still too many rights the LGBT community do not receive. But with his teammates’ support and the general public treating his announcement like a fart in the ocean, Rogers has shown that Americans – especially younger Americans – are on the side of acceptance. And this is something to celebrate.