Jason Collins: Let’s hear it for the boy!…and all the women who came before him

U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe poses with her gold medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Rapinoe came out in July, just before the Olympics. (Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images Europe)

U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe poses with her gold medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Rapinoe came out in July, just before the Olympics. (Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images Europe)


Jason Collins made waves Monday when he became the first male athlete playing a major American team sport to come out as gay.

“I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay,” Collins writes in Sports Illustrated, his face gracing the cover.

The response has been mostly positive (with one ): The Red Sox him, fellow NBA and hailed his courage, and U.S. presidents and present acted like proud papas.

Keep up the good work, guys–but can we get some love for the ladies, too?

Plenty of prominent female athletes have publicly come out as lesbians over the past three decades. Tennis superstar Billie Jean King–who was outed in 1981–has since become a symbol of the fight for gay and women’s rights.

LPGA golfer Patty Sheehan joined the club in 1998 with her Golf World magazine article about raising an adopted son with her partner.

Sue Wicks, then of the WNBA’s New York Liberty, told a New York magazine she was gay in 2002.

Three-time WNBA MVP Sheryl Swoopes came out in 2005; soccer Olympic gold medalist Natasha Kai in 2008.

A few more recent additions: Megan Rapinoe, who helped lead the U.S. women’s soccer team to Olympic gold in London 2012; WNBA star and fellow London 2012 gold medalist Seimone Augustus; and Brittney Griner, the No. 1 pick in April 2013’s WNBA draft.

So what’s with(out) all the hype?

“Everyone thinks that the WNBA is one big lesbo-party anyway,” Seimone Augustus said of her sport last fall. “So the coming out process isn’t as tough for us because people are already expecting it.”

While we’re hoping that not everyone thinks that, it’s fair to say that female professional athletes already go against the grain of stereotypical femininity. As Garance Franke-Ruta writes in The Atlantic: “Extremely sporty women have to fight stereotyping that they are lesbians and ignore all manner of unkind commentary about how they are mannish, while sporty men are seen as participating in a form of the masculine ideal.”

Put that way, it sounds like female athletes have it tough either way you shake it. So let’s give credit where credit is due. And these women aren’t the only ones who deserve the spotlight. We owe the Orlando Cruzes and of the world equal recognition for showing their true colors, regardless of the sports they play or the time stamps on their public reveals.

Jason Collins writes, “I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore. I want to march for tolerance, acceptance and understanding. I want to take a stand and say, ‘Me, too.’” That stand is not an easy one to take, and should be celebrated with each and every step.



jason collinsmegan rapinoeWNBAWPGA
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  • Reply May 1, 2013


    I think is great! It’s funny with gender roles how this is headlining news for men but has been going on for years for women- be it professional or college sports. While Jason Collins’ courage is something be celebrated I wish coming out wasn’t a scandal for male athletes and an assumption for female athletes.

    • Reply May 1, 2013

      Ali Vitali

      I totally agree! While Collins is a role model for fellow gay, males (athletes or not), media seems more concerned with men taking this public leap more than the females who have already done it. Even speaking outside the realm of sports, many women have taken big chances in their careers to come out as gay and be true to themselves (re: Ellen Degeneres). While I don’t think they’re doing it to be praised and lauded as heroes, it stands to note how many brave females have been doing this for decades. Let’s keep it up!

  • Reply May 1, 2013

    Nobody claimed he was the first gay athlete, but the first openly gay athlete to play on a “major team sport” currently. Tennis, the WNBA and soccer don’t fit that title. Sadly, no women’s leagues do. So, point taken, but the team dynamic is what causes the controversy because you have jackasses like Chris Culliver et. al.


    Also, not sure if this has been brought to your attention.