“I’m seeing a lot of ‘who gives a shit?’ comments, and I’d like to explain to those who don’t understand why it matters that Michael Sam is openly gay.
First of all, those who know a gay person are twice as likely to support gay marriage. To anyone following gay rights for a long time, this is the key to acceptance in a society which can’t even agree on deathbed rights for people in a gay relationship. Hell, sodomy is still illegal in some states! To have a gay person in such a socially right-wing community as the NFL football community would force closed-minded people who wouldn’t ever otherwise see a gay person to view positive accomplishments of a gay person. With every interview, every press conference, every sack and forced fumble, people will see a person (who happens to be gay) excelling at his craft, not a stereotype that a lot of people use to substantiate hatred.
Secondly, and even more importantly, more young people (and especially athletic young people) have someone to serve as an example that homosexuality is not something that makes someone a bad person or a pariah. Seeing someone who serves as a role model embrace who he is sexually means that gay teens are one step closer to accepting a part of their personalities without having to hide behind a mask of heterosexuality. Can you imagine living the most difficult part of your life (adolescence) having to hold such a gigantic and painful secret? While all of your male friends are going out “chasing tail,” you have to either pretend you’re into girls to fit in or risk being a leper. And we all know about all the kids who have hurt and/or killed themselves because they have to hide this very secret.
I’m not saying Michael Sam has changed the definition of normalcy in such a macro way, but with every new high-profile celebrity coming out–and especially the ones who come out in more macho circles like major league sports–the more “normal” homosexuality seems. And the more normal homosexuality seems, the more people don’t have to live a lie just because society doesn’t approve of the way they were born.”
Image from an ESPN interview http://espn.go.com/espn/otl/story/_/id/10429030/michael-sam-missouri-tigers-says-gay