On How To Play A Woman And Have Everyone Ok With It (Hint: Be Gay And Be “First”)

jason collins

A little over two weeks ago, as my entire family was gathered at Sunday dinner, discussing the plans and preparations for my sister’s upcoming (June) wedding, she (my sister) unexpectantly broke down in tears and rushed out of the room, running upstairs. My parents and I looked at each other baffled, each of our faces simultaneously stuck on “Was it something I said?” mode. After the shock wore off, my mom went after my still hysterical sister, whose cries could be heard downstairs.

After a few minutes, my mom returned to the dinner table, alone.

“The wedding is off”

“Wait! What? What happened?”

“Rick broke up with her this morning. Said he didn’t want to marry her. Apparently didn’t give any reason for it.”

This news, while shocking, wasn’t necessarily surprising. They (Rick and my sister) met in college, and dated for eight years, and eight years is a hell of a long relationship gestation period. I know there are exceptions to every rule, but it’s been my experience that “eight years of dating” = “yeah, he doesn’t really want to marry your ass.”

I think my sister sensed this as well, but she still tried her damnedest to believe in their future together. She’d invested so much energy, so much time, sweat, love, and tears into this relationship she wouldn’t allow herself to think otherwise. Also, she wanted to have children—multiple children—and she was aware that as she got older (she’s 33), she honestly didn’t have much more time to be able to do that. Quite frankly, she needed this relationship with Rick to work.

As I mentioned earlier, I had an idea that this was coming. But, there was no urge to remind her or anyone of this. Instead, I was filled with rage. I thought about all the pre and post-wedding preparations my parents made, and the stress that put them through. My dad even developed an ulcer. I thought of all the people—friends and family—who’d saved up and altered their schedules to attend the June wedding. I thought about all the awkward conversations my sister was going to have to have for the next several months when co-workers and acquaintances who haven’t heard the news yet will ask her about Rick and the wedding. I thought of how she always wanted to be a wife and a mother. Even as a kid, she’d joke about wanting to have enough kids to field her own basketball team. Yes, she can still get married and yes, she can still have kids—despite what the media might tell you, a 30-something woman breaking up with a man isn’t a death sentence—but realistically, the chances of that happening are much lower now than they were even five years ago.

I wasn’t the only one filled with rage, either. Since hearing the news, my parents and I have both struggled to juggle the surreal ambivalence of wanting to be supportive for my sister and wanting to shed Rick’s blood. Some days, I’m so consumed with antipathy that I think about what I’d do to Rick if he ever had the misfortune of crossing paths with me. I know these feelings will eventually pass, but right now it’s all I can think about.

I imagine most people would also feel that strange combination of feelings—anger, confusion, disgust–if their loved one was hurt in a similar way. I’m sure you’d feel even more strange if the man who broke up with your sister so suddenly was being celebrated nationally—hailed everywhere as a hero—for basically the same reason he broke up with your sister so suddenly. Perhaps this reason makes him a pioneer, a vanguard, a spearhead to newer, better, and more progressive America. But, while bravery and a willingness to stand alone, to do what others haven’t done are part of its definition, “heroism” also implies a certain selflessness, a benevolent altruisticness, and knowing what this man did to your sister and your family, you’ll never be able to call him a hero.

I’m sure by now you’ve deduced that my story about my sister was a bit of an allegory. If you hadn’t figured it out, well, my story about my sister was a bit of an allegory. I wrote this from an hypothetical perspective of a hypothetical family member of Carolyn Moos—the woman who Jason Collins dated for eight years, proposed to, and broke up with a month before their wedding.

I didn’t write this to discredit or dismiss the bravery it took for Collins to make his recent admission, nor am I so myopic that I can’t see how an act like that has the potential to make a positive impact on thousands, even millions of lives. I also am fully aware that I have absolutely no idea about the inner workings of Collins’ and Moos’ relationship, and I couldn’t even begin the fathom how it must feel to spend decades trapped inside of a box, forced by societal constraints to live a lie.

I am, though, aware of how much of an influence perspective has on perception, and the Collins’ case—and the prevailing reaction to it—is an perfect example of that. A big part of the reason why Collins is being lauded as a hero is because he told his story first. Think of how much different everything would be if our first news about Collins’ sexuality was told by a scorned ex-fiancee who wanted to set the record straight after being led on for a decade.

There also lies the uncomfortable fact that his “heroism” is predicated on the fact that he very likely deceived and even hurt people—people very close to him—for a very long time. Lemme put it this way: If Collins was “Rick the civil engineer who just broke up with your sister a month before her wedding” instead of a guy who’s really, really, really good at playing basketball, and the story of Rick finally coming out was told from your sister’s perspective, I doubt you’d throw many positive-sounding nouns and adjectives in Rick’s direction.

Yet, Collins’ position as a professional athlete has made us assign a heroism to an act—publicly admitting that you’ve been living a lie—that isn’t really all that heroic. Yes, you cannot discount the role societal expectations played in Collins’ life, as I’m sure he did not set out to delude or hurt anyone. And yes, what Collins’ did—either intentionally or unintentionally lead a woman to believe their relationship was something that it wasn’t—has been done by men everywhere (me included). My eyes are filled with planks. This is exactly my point. If you take away the “firstness” and the homosexuality and just look at it as a “man spends decade deceiving woman who was in love with him” perspective, what separates him from the thousands of men (and women) reading this today? Obviously, being shitty at relationships doesn’t mean that you can’t be a hero. Just not when the heroism is directly linked to the shitty behavior.

You could argue that since Collins himself wasn’t completely sure of his sexuality—in his own words, this realization was “baking” for 33 years—it doesn’t really count as deception. Basically, deception isn’t truly deception if you’re genuinely deluding yourself. This is a valid argument. I don’t agree—a person unsure of their sexual preference telling someone they want to get married sounds like true deception to me—but it is valid. You can also argue that anyone hurt by Collins’ lie is America’s fault for forcing a man to think that he had to live that way, not Collins’. This is also a valid argument. I don’t agree—while America may have made it very difficult to come out as gay, America doesn’t force you to get into long relationships with women (What’s wrong with just not seriously dating anyone?)—but it is valid. But, the argument that context makes Collins a hero, that the impact of his admission supersedes any possible collateral damage caused by him living a lie, isn’t.

I applaud Collins for being real with himself, for having the courage to be free, for being the first active male athlete in one of our major sports to stand up and tell the world that he will no longer pretend to be something he isn’t, for having the balls to be the first member of a club that will likely grow much sooner and much larger than we think, for “outing” himself when he apparently didn’t have to.

But, as we rush to praise him for being first, we can’t forget that it came with a very human cost. If this still makes him a “hero” to you, fine. I understand. We all have our own definitions of the word, I guess. For now, though, I’ll be safe and just call him a “man.”


—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

  • fafa

    1st?

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      jason?

      • IcePrincess

        Testing 1,2

      • Sweet GA Brown

        Haha

      • http://www.twitter.com/black_yoda black yoda

        well played.

    • Mary

      You do realize that this breakup happened over 4 years ago, right?

  • keith

    2nd. and im tired of talking about a scrub. wake me up when some one more than a stiff journey man comes out. I do believe he will land on another team if David Stern has to make them lol. ATL? or did he already do a stint there or was that his brother. They both sorry anyway.

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      “They both sorry anyway.”

      as sorry as he might be in nba terms, (paraphrasing sherman alexie) he’s still one of the best 1000 or so basketball players on the planet, which makes him better at what he does than 99.9% of us are at whatever we do.

      • Mep

        This is not an original statement. So quote your source. Shame on you, a plagiarizing writer.

        • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

          you’re right and wrong. I’m assuming you’re alluding to Sherman Alexie’s recent piece about Collins—one I actually linked to on our Facebook page. You’re right in that he used that phrase to describe Collins. But, many rational sports-watching people—me included—have said that before when hearing someone describe a professional athlete as a scrub. It’s not a original thought or phrase.

          Still (as you can see), I’m sensitive to sh*t like this, so the change has been made.

      • http://www.twitter.com/mcnairian5 Fiveisthenumber

        Wake me up when one of the best point guards on the planet comes out of the closet.

  • Malik

    I agree with your logic, argumentation, and emotional reaction. Situations like this always shed light on people unable to deal with nuance and those who feel that 1 party needs to be designated the “blamed” party and are unable to see beyond that.

    This is an example of how people confuse with being disenfranchised (in some way) as it giving them leeway to do or say whatever they want because the got the moral upperhand by lowering on the social totem pole. I can sympathize with his personal struggles and understand why anyone would be so reticent to come out. That doesn’t give him a pass for any and all people who he hurt.

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      “Situations like this always shed light on people unable to deal with nuance and those who feel that 1 party needs to be designated the “blamed” party and are unable to see beyond that.”

      it also infantilizes the disenfranchised as well. by holding someone to a lesser standard you’re implying that they’re somehow lesser too.

      • Todd

        And the worst part about that is that some people like to make themselves like infants, because being a baby means no responsibility. I’ve seen it before, and it comes off sad.

    • Rewind

      You’re right. But since we live in a world where everyone has to pay to get ahead, someone has to be a loser. As moral as some people make themselves out to be, morals go out the window once they realize they can capitalize on a situation with minimum consequences.

    • Wild Cougar

      Yes, yes and YES! *lights cigarette*

  • Drizzy

    I think it’s about more than that. It’s not just that he admitted he was living a lie. A large part of it is the fact that we live in a world where people feel like they have to live a lie.

  • IcePrincess

    Good point champ. I really didn’t take the time to think about it from her POV. It’s horrible! My first thought was: better a month before the wedding than a month after. But then I said, ” ya kno what? Eff that. At least if it had been a month after, she could’ve gotten the bastard’s money!” *blu cantrell’s “hit him up style” plays in the background*

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      that is an interesting question. in a case like this, is it better to be dumped a month before or a month after

      • AfroPetite

        Times are hard, bills are real, groceries are expensive. I’ll take the fall and get dumped after the nuptials. If I’m going to be your beard then dammit I’m going to be a well paid beard.

        • GirlSixx

          *Bloop*

  • IcePrincess

    Could u free my comment pretty please, champy-poo? Thanx. Muah!

  • Moe

    He doesn’t deserve the attention nor praise for coming out…period! There is nothing brave, heroic or anything about Jason Collins. He didn’t sacrifice or lose anything whatsoever and he stands to profit big time…maybe a team will pick him up, he averaged less than 3 pts a game. Look! At some point early in his life he chose to be gay and wasn’t honest about with people plain and simple. Big deal he’s gay. There’s been gay athletes for decades.

    Let me tell you who’s brave and heroic. Jackie Robinson fits that title because of the threats to him and his family, Muhammad Ali, who was forced to give up his prime years for standing firm in his beliefs, the fireman who rescues people from a burning building, that soldier fighting for us and coming home an amputee, or that Samaritan, who sacrifices his or her life to save another.

    I’d have much more respect had Jason Collins came out at the height of homophobia or when it was very unpopular in this country but he didn’t. When you have a safe environment like the super gay friendly media, the president and everything else, who wouldn’t come out? Many gays have adopted former President George Bush mantra “You either with us or against us!” Collins -Loss/Sacrifice= #CollinsNotAndNeverWillBeAHero#

    • Secret Sauce

      And Rosa Parks wasn’t exactly the First Lady when folks decided to rally around her cause after refusing to move to the back of a Montgomery city transit bus. History is littered with folks who were not heralded or accomplished whose actions resulted in tremendous social change.

      And while there are/have been gay athletes, how many of them have come out publicly while still on active rosters even in this so-called gay-friendly environment? I’ll hang up and listen for my answer on that one.

      Finally, I don’t think Jason Collins is a hero. In fact, I’d be hesitant to call anyone a hero. We only see the public PR controlled image of individuals more often than not before eventually they are Lance Armstrong or Jesse Jackson-like at the end of the day. It doesnt matter whether that person is a pro ball player or a firefighter. Humans are fallible. No need to elevate them beyond the flesh and blood creatures they are.

      • http://missrosen.wordpress.com esa

        ~ Humans are fallible. No need to elevate them beyond the flesh and blood creatures they are.

        and yet, we heroicize. it’s a trait you see in young children and full grown adults. it is, at times, what moves people to act for the betterment of the greater good. inspiration takes many forms, including flesh and blood.

        i think, the issue, is choosing heroes based on appearances, rather than people you actually know. i never had a hero, until i did, and i wouldn’t trade that in for anything in the world because it gives me faith ~*~

        thing is, my hero, i do not elevate her. she is human through and through. it is her humanity that makes me understand, it is possible for to do anything we are willing to give our lives to.

      • Rewind

        You may not be quick to call anyone a hero, but the rest of the world is starving to do it. Because people don’t believe in themselves. People are sheep, and they need a shepard to lead the way. All they need is one person to open the door and they will all funnel through, praising that person, even if they did nothing important.

        Opinions are fickle but laziness & desperation are infinite.

      • Brother Mouzone

        And while there are/have been gay athletes, how many of them have come out publicly while still on active rosters even in this so-called gay-friendly environment? I’ll hang up and listen for my answer on that one.

        He’s NOT on an active roster. He’s a free agent waiting for someone to pick him up.

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      I (obviously) agree that I wouldn’t consider him a hero, but we can’t sit here and pretend that the story didn’t merit the attention it’s received

      • keith

        I know it merits the attention.. just because media types are in the business of selling stories. I know you were a baller. I just dont get why you are offended that I called him a scrub lol. Either way im of the mind if he can do the job great. I do think this story would have been different if the ex was black. By the way I think Bill Simmons did a damn good interview already. Im just fatigued of this guy already and he did it after the season. However if you do a post on the Oprah interview, I will read it. Champ straight up does this help him or hurt in getting another gig?

  • Negro Libre

    I try to have a healthy distrust of media people; not because they are inherently liars, but their careers are dependent on how they are perceived, not what they actually are. Though the interest in Jason Collins is already fading, as was to be expected, the ex-fiance angle of the story is quite interesting. For starters, it’s kind of ironic, given various stereotypes, that given a choice between a 7ft NBA player and a 6ft5 WNBA player, that it’s the NBA one who is gay right? However, much more so, is how his usage as a symbol for a cause, overshadows his entire character, which to me shows the power to “spin” a story by the media.

    In the end though, and this was what I was talking about the last time I addressed the Collins issue, he’s a hero because the media has portrayed him as a hero; for him to be an actual real life hero, he would have had to do this without going to the media first. The reason why he’s getting a pass, is simply because the media said he aught to have one (Hurray for the gay mafia; I’m wondering what Tracy Morgan’s thoughts are on the issue?) If he had written a book, an essay, a song, or even put up a message on twitter and had orchestrated the story himself, it would be much easier to make a more honest decision on whether he deserves much more praise or ridicule…however, based on the way his story has been constructed and portrayed, it’s kind of pointless to reach any serious conclusions when there is very little real information that we have on the guy.

    • IcePrincess

      Rite. He came out with the spin machine already in full force AND he waited till his star had fallen anyway. Lame. Ellen Degeneres- now THAT’S how you come out! It was the 90′s, & she was at the height of her career (at the time) with her sitcom. That’s gangsta! *boondocks voice*

    • MonaLisa

      I agree…like who seriously comes out anymore? And it definitely would have made more of an impact if he came out with no help from the media but not THAT much more. I saw this story and was confused as to why it was such a big deal. And another thing, how can he say that he was confused about his sexuality at his age?! Please stop it. I think it’s a clear sign that you’re gay if you have to picture the hot guy at the gym just to get it up for your girl.

      • Rewind

        There’s no such thing as an age barrier to maturity of any kind. You don’t get to dictate when someone should know sh*t seeing as we all learn things at different points in life, no matter how much it doesn’t make sense.

        • MonaLisa

          My comment had nothing to do with his maturity level and everything to do with the fact that he knew in his mind that he was gay, Im sure for a while. He was not confused, but may have been in denial, trying to hide it, etc. BUT it does take a mature person to admit that and obviously he isn’t there yet.

    • http://missrosen.wordpress.com esa

      ~ I try to have a healthy distrust of media people; not because they are inherently liars, but their careers are dependent on how they are perceived, not what they actually are.

      this is an excellent point. it cuts a million ways. the star, the publicist, the media, the advertisers, the audience. there is a complicity that we, as Americans upholding our ideals about “Freedom of the Press”, willfully overlook.

      i know that i, in my work in the media, have definitely used it as a platform to put out my agenda, messages that i want to share in order to affect perception in the world. but in order to do this, i am becoming increasingly aware of the underlying politics of the world i am in, and it’s rather #$%^%&$#%!@$# when i am honest with myself.

      • http://about.me/chrisgholston IckeyShufflin’

        +1

    • Rewind

      I agree with your mistrust of the media. It disgusts me how easily people will believe anything a camera will show them without once questioning how doctored that footage is. Everything recorded that is not on a security camera or perhaps a cellphone camera is staged as hell, and even security cameras & cellphones can be manipulated.

      He thought about his approach, he waited, and then he jumped. That’s all there is to it. There’s no sincerity. There’s no sacrifice. He got a paycheck to do this. He got to be a star when he should have never been a star. Yet people need to grasp onto something to call their own because they are too weak to find the strength to be that hero for themselves. They don’t even realize it is all just a ploy.

      Pitiful.

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      even if he didn’t go to the media first, though, the media would have picked up his story within milliseconds of him publishing it

      • Negro Libre

        Well, it’s the difference between fire department coming to your home and putting out a fire, then the media coming in to cover the story vs. the fire department alerting the media that they’re coming to your home to put out a fire and them filming it.

  • BriA

    Funny because I overheard (and by overheard, I mean being nosey) a conversation with two of my co-workers: a man who is gay & a woman who married a Black man wayyy back when it wasn’t really acceptable to do so. The woman (a huge supporter of gay rights) was saying that people are close-minded for judging Jason Collins for being in a relationship with a woman and thinking he deceived her. Her rationale was that “he was confused about his own sexuality so how could he let her or anyone else know when he wasnt sure himself.” I can’t say whether I agree or disagree, but I bet if she were in that situation, she would feel a whole lot differently. I’m all for people doing what makes them happy, but dont do it at another person’s expense. If you’re confused then take a step back. Like you said Champ, why not just simply chose not to date anyone? Don’t drag someone else into your confusion to save face.

    I just have very little tolerance for people who use others for appearance, ego boosts, cover-ups, to prove a point, etc. Especially so when the other person is completely unaware.

    • Jay

      Her rationale was that “he was confused about his own sexuality so how could he let her or anyone else know when he wasnt sure himself.”

      Letting her know that he was confused about his sexuality is EXACTLY what he should have done. Its not like he was supposed to “choose a side” first and then let her know.

      I’ve had relationship issues in the past where I felt that we were past a certain point. A point where there were NO SECRETS. A point where “well… you never asked” doesn’t fly. If you’re at a point where a wedding is being planned, then yes, you should volunteer info. You should let me know anything that I may be concerned about seeing as how we’re planning on being connected FOR LIFE.

      • CNotes

        Agreed.

    • Americandream

      Correct !

    • Rewind

      simply dating leads to questions. The questions lead to excuses. Eventually you run out of excuses but the questions keep coming. So you either tell the truth or enhance the lie to quell the questions. Most people just choose the latter.

      Is it right? Hell no. But then again, we are on a blog where 99% of the people typing or reading make under $250K and we are trying to assume why a man who makes millions of dollars would do the things he does. His life isn’t like ours and his life comes with a special type of scrutiny that only rich people could understand. So as much as I don’t agree, I try to not to compare what I would do in a rich person’s position, because I have no idea what it means to be rich.

      • http://www.twitter.com/epsilonicus Eps

        And Rewind comes through with the nuanced genius moment.

        • Rewind

          Word.

          but I still really really really really want to be rich.

      • http://missrosen.wordpress.com esa

        that and .. there is a distinction to be made between newly rich and born into money. born into money has major codes, one of which is :: no publicity (except for the society pages, of course).

        • Rewind

          True indeed. Being born into money means you have no need to draw extra attention to yourself unless you are just a screw-up. But new money always means you have to find a way to keep the cash flow coming.

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      “If you’re confused then take a step back. Like you said Champ, why not just simply chose not to date anyone?”

      exactly. there’s a difference between “i don’t know if shes the right person for me yet” and “i don’t know if i like d*ck or p*ssy yet.”

      • Kopa

        The thing is, he was probably attracted to her. That’s not impossible, even with gay men. I had a close male friend once tell me that they liked me as more than a friend, but that he didn’t want to explore it because he was “confused” about his feelings. Later he turned out to be gay. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t genuinely interested in me, and had he been born into a different society or had he been less brave, he would have shoved aside that “confusion” about his feelings and went for it. I appreciate that he was strong enough not to. Collins was clearly not.

  • Secret Sauce

    I wonder how that chick Sheryl Swoopes dated felt when she found out she was being dropped for a dude?

    • http://www.twitter.com/mcnairian5 Fiveisthenumber

      Probably the same way her ex-husband did when he got dropped for a woman.

      • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com Tristan

        In the ciiiiiircle, the circle of liiiiiiife.

    • kid video

      I guess tha grass ain’t greener on the other side….

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      sheryl swoopes is bisexual?

      • Brother Mouzone

        news to me too!

      • keith

        yep