Coming Out Is Still A Process, Even For NBA Players

by Dian Reid-Jancic· Follow Dian on

NBA player Jason Collins came out publicly in an essay published in Sports Illustrated on Monday. What’s been great to hear are the loud applause of support and respect. The tide is turning, slowly as it may be, but it is becoming increasingly politically incorrect to publicly denounce someone for being gay. Of course there is ignorance mixed in with common sense and support; some people simply don’t know any better.

One tweet that caught my attention was this one by Bruce Bowen, an NBA analyst on ESPN:

It’s a positive affirmation of respect mixed in with a huge misconception: “Just glad he can now relax and not be afraid to be who he is.”

As if.

I’m not criticizing Bowen’s comments, I’m simply replying, “It’s not that easy, good man, but I like your sentiment.”


Plenty of people are talking about the significance of a gay male in one of the big four professional sports coming out while he’s still active in that sport. In our patriarchal society, it’s more important for a man to come out in an “important” sport than it is for a woman in any sport. I’ll save that conversation for another time.

As to Jason Collins’ coming out, this is just the beginning of this part of his process in doing so. Just because Collins said the words out loud doesn’t mean his coming out is all over and he can sit back, be unafraid, and watch the world accept him for who he is. If only it were that easy.

I cannot speak for everyone’s coming out process, but I can say with certainty that there is, in fact, a process in coming out, and it doesn’t end with telling the world you’re gay.

It continues with being curious about (and possibly fearing) what people think of you now that you’ve revealed your soul—not because fear is part of the process, but because being human is.

It continues with questioning whether or not you made the right decision, (no matter how sure of yourself and your decision you’ve ever been) and moving past the questioning and the fears to be yourself in everyday life, amidst the people who now see you differently as well as those who see the same person they’ve always seen.

It continues with the space between the certainty, the fear, the curiosity, the questioning, the emotions, thoughts, realities that go along with moving through life as authentically as possible.

At least, that’s what we try to do.

That’s life, isn’t it?

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Devon Fitzgerald Ralston May.1.2013 at 11.20 am

“It continues with being curious about (and possibly fearing) what people think of you now that you’ve revealed your soul—not because fear is part of the process, but because being human is.” So, very true. I once became very frustrated because of this because with each new group I join or person I meet, anyone I invite into my life, I have to come out all over again. But once I realized that what I’m actually doing is revealing who I am and in some ways allowing others to reveal themselves, it became less of an annoyance and more of opportunity. But the fear, it’s always there. I feel it in my hesitation when I contemplate whether to say partner or wife or something more ambiguous.

Dian Reid, CPCC May.8.2013 at 8.04 am

I just experienced this fear a few days ago when doing an interview. It’s amazing how engrained in our brains hiding is, even after years of practicing not. Ultimately I used the word wife, which still feels wrong because technically it’s true only in practice and not by law. I like the idea of looking at it as an opportunity, and maybe that helps calm the fear a little bit, too. Thanks for sharing, Devon.

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