When Frank Ocean opened up about his sexuality in a heartfelt Tumblr post last summer it brought down one of the most enduring hurdles in the hip-hop/R&B world. His letter, in which he opened up about his first love, an unnamed man, was seen as a watershed in urban music and it drew praise from Odd Future boss Tyler, the Creator and hip-hop icon Russell Simmons.
Another major wall came down on Monday, when 12-year NBA veteran forward Jason Collins became the first active player in a major league sport to come out. In a personal essay in Sports Illustrated, Collins wrote, “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay. 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.”
Collins said he chose this time to come out because of the deep impact the Boston Marathon bombings had on him and his belief that he couldn’t wait anymore for the perfect moment to come out because “things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully?”
Though he doesn’t name-check Ocean, there’s no doubt that the Odd Future crooner’s action last summer made the atmosphere a bit safer for Collins to make his decision. “I’m glad I’m coming out in 2013 rather than 2003,” Collins wrote. “The climate has shifted; public opinion has shifted.” Like Ocean, Collins chose to make his statement not in a teary interview with Oprah or another talk show host, but in an essay in which he could explain himself on his own terms without another voice clouding his story.
And, like Ocean, Collins got lots of big-name support for his actions, from fellow players like Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson, to former president Bill Clinton and his daughter Chelsea, to director Spike Lee and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, who tweeted, “I’m overwhelmed by your bravery, Jason, & sending so much love.”
Other sports stars also weighed in, including out tennis icon Martina Navratilova, boxing great Evander Holyfield and wrestler/actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who wrote, “Being real & authentic is very powerful. Well done Jason Collins for having the courage to take a monumental step forward.”
Among the Hollywood notables who sent their best wishes were Eva Longoria, former ’NSYNC member Lance Bass, Sirius/XM talker Howard Stern, Rosie O’Donnell, Kathy Griffin, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Neil Patrick Harris, Busy Phillips and Katy Perry, who said, “Congrats, Jason Collins and thank you!”