Tag Archives: come out

Boitano didn’t decided to come out until he was tapped for Sochi delegation

Brian Boitano never intended to publicly reveal he is gay until he was chosen for the U.S. Olympic delegation by President Barack Obama last month.

Calling himself “a private guy,” Boitano told The Associated Press this week that he never planned to come out. But moments before his presence on the delegation was revealed, Boitano realized what a powerful statement the president was making.

Obama chose openly gay athletes Billie Jean King and Caitlin Cahow for the delegation, as well. Boitano said his decision to say “being gay is just one part of who I am” in a statement on Dec. 19 “literally came to fruition” moments before the White House announced the makeup of the delegation.

“I don’t feel that I can represent the country without revealing this incredible side of myself,” Boitano said. “This is an important moment, and to represent my country in Russia, it’s a platform that is so important for me.”

The 1988 Olympic gold medalist hopes other countries will make similar endorsements of an open way of life by who represents them at Sochi. He’s proud of Obama’s stance.

“Our nation is at the forefront of trying to create a more tolerant public,” he said. “The president is kind of saying to Russia that as a strong country, we believe in this and if you don’t follow along, we will leave you behind in this thought process.”

Russia has come under heavy criticism for passing national laws banning “gay propaganda,” and there were even suggestions for the United States to boycott the Sochi Games as a protest. But Obama rejected that idea, saying with “gay and lesbian athletes bringing home the gold or silver or bronze,” a stronger statement would be made.

Boitano was in Courchevel, France, when Obama announced the delegation, which also includes former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, deputy Secretary of State William Burns and presidential adviser Rob Nabors.

“I feel great about the delegation and being part of the movement,” Boitano said. “It’s important personally to feel I am representing the country and the president’s message.”

Moments after he released his statement in December, Boitano began receiving words of support from the figure skating community, including Olympic champions Dick Button and Carol Heiss Jenkins.

“That feedback for me is really important, especially coming from my peers,” he said. “They know how private a person I am and that this was a big move for me.”

High school and college athletes are coming out

You’ve probably never heard of Holly Peterson or Jonathan Jean-Pierre. One came out as a lesbian at age 15, when she was playing high school basketball. The other, a college rower, told his teammates last year that he’s gay.

There was little fanfare for either. There were no headlines as there were when NBA player Jason Collins declared that he is gay, making him the first in a major U.S. men’s professional sport to come out.

Some are calling Collins a role model for this up-and-coming generation of gay and lesbian athletes. But in some ways, those young athletes and their supporters also have helped pave the way for pros like Collins.

“Change is coming from the top down, but it’s also coming from the bottom up,” says Ellen Staurowsky, a professor of sport management at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

“It is a movement that’s taken place quietly,” she adds, “on teams, in athletic departments with some coaches and athletes standing up when they needed to. … It’s an accumulated movement over many, many decades.”

Awareness of homosexuality in athletics started to grow, slowly, Staurowsky says, in the 1970s on college campuses. Then in the early 1980s, tennis star Billie Jean King was outed, and Martina Navratilova also came out as a lesbian.

As a small number of high-profile athletes followed suit in years to come, Gene Smith, the athletic director at Ohio State University, says he and others began to notice a shift in momentum on college campuses by the mid-1990s. More young athletes were feeling empowered to be open about their sexuality, he says, and the trend has only grown.

“I think it was easier on certain teams, and it kind of evolved over time,” says Smith, who was the athletic director at Eastern Michigan University and Iowa State University before going to Ohio State.

For some, like Holly Peterson, an athlete who grew up outside Sacramento, Calif., coming out happened even earlier in life. She made the decision to tell her family and friends that she’s a lesbian 14 years ago, when she was a sophomore in high school.

“I was ready,” says Peterson, who’s now 29. “I needed to tell someone.”

Her team and coach responded well, she says, though her parents removed her from her traveling basketball team and, instead, used the money they’d spent on that for therapy.

Eventually, though, her parents came to terms with her sexual orientation – and she went on to play college basketball at the University of California-Riverside, where she also lived her life openly.

While there, she recalls speaking on a panel with other gay and lesbian athletes – and how other women athletes on her campus told her that she’d given them the courage to come out, too.

“That was huge for me,” says Peterson, who now plays women’s professional tackle football. “That was really the first step in my looking at myself as a role model and someone who could make a difference.”

Several campuses – among them Princeton, the University of Michigan and the University of California-Berkeley – now have groups for gay and lesbian athletes.

There are groups, too, for straight allies, including Athlete Ally, an organization for straight athletes who publicly back their lesbian and gay peers.

The website for another organization, the You Can Play Project, includes videos of support from athletic directors, coaches and athletes from colleges and universities across the country.

“If you can play, you can play,” is the tagline repeated over and over in those videos.

If you come out, you also might get an endorsement deal.

Just days after Brittney Griner came out as a lesbian, sportswear company Nike Inc. announced a deal with her. The WNBA’s No. 1 draft pick, she recently graduated from Baylor University.

Not that it’s always easy for gay and lesbian athletes.

Jonathan Jean-Pierre, a member of the rowing team at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, says his teammates have never given him any trouble about being gay.

“But sometimes I still feel like I have to work twice as hard to prove myself,” says the 19-year-old athlete, who plans to discuss these and other issues as a participant in a summit about gay and lesbian athletes that Nike will host next month for the athletes, coaches and college athletic directors.

While more gay and lesbian athletes are coming out, Smith at Ohio State also notes that his school remains among those where a gay athlete has yet to come out on the football, men’s basketball, hockey or wrestling teams.

That, he and others say, is where pro athletes like Collins may have particular influence, especially if Collins, who is a free agent, signs with a team next season.

“There are certainly other closeted athletes who are looking to Jason Collins to see what will happen with him,” says Hudson Taylor, a former collegiate wrestler who, as a straight supporter of his gay and lesbian peers, founded Athlete Ally.

Either way, many – including skater Johnny Weir, who announced he was gay after the last winter Olympics – expect that Collins’ revelation will have a positive impact on young gay and lesbian athletes, partly because so many people are aware of it.

“I’m envious of it,” the 28-year-old Weir says, because there wasn’t “as much craze” when he came out. “But I do really respect it.”

Smith at Ohio State says he, too, has great respect for the athletes at his school who continue to come out. He recalls, for instance, how a member of the university’s track team named Derrick Anderson recently announced that he’s gay at a school forum.

That said, he hopes that, one day, coming out in such a public way won’t be necessary – that gay and straight athletes and other students can simply coexist.

“That’s a long ways away,” Smith says. “But I think we’re making good progress.”

NFL player Brendon Ayanbadejo urges athletes to support marriage equality

Former Baltimore Ravens reserve linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo called on professional athletes on April 23 to stand up for marriage equality because he said it is “the right thing to do.”

Ayanbadejo took his support for gay marriage to South Florida, where his career started with Miami in 2003 and where he has lived for the past decade.

“We are calling on everybody across all spectrums of sports,” he told a news conference in Fort Lauderdale, where he was joined by representatives of the civil rights organization Equality Florida. One of the group’s goals is a longshot effort to legalize same-sex marriage in the state.

“I think the star power, especially with athletes, allows us to hit a demographic. … I think this allows us to have our voice reach a little bit deeper to people who wouldn’t normally hear our message.”

The 36-year-old Ayanbadejo said he had a “bigger calling than football” and this was it.

“I have a chance now to help so many more people than I did while in football.”

An open proponent of gay marriage, Ayanbadejo spoke in favor of it in November, before Maryland passed a law allowing it, and also prior to the Super Bowl. He also recently spoke at a rally on the steps of the Supreme Court.

He was cut from the Ravens earlier this month and initially suggested the roster move stemmed from his controversial stance. He has since backed off that position and said the team has supported him since he began talking about equality in 2009.

“They said go ahead and use your platform,” he said. “And not only did that make the Ravens look good and also we won the Super Bowl, but also it’s a good example for other teams in the NFL as well.”

The chances of same-sex marriage being legalized in Florida are slim. In 2008, 62 percent of voters approved a state constitutional amendment banning it and civil unions. To overturn that amendment, the Republican-dominated Legislature would have to put a measure on the ballot or the group would have to collect valid signatures from more than 680,000 voters. The measure would then have to be approved by more than 60 percent of the voters.

Earlier this month, Ayanbadejo told The Baltimore Sun that up to four NFL players may soon come out as gay. He told The Associated Press this week that a group of athletes were in touch with equality organizations and “we are just trying to facilitate them so they can have a support group amongst each other.”

Ayanbadejo, who said he is not gay, said he is a product of biracial parents who would not have been able to marry in the 1960s in several states.

“It’s personal, but I equate it to equal rights, and a lot of people can’t see it that way,” he said of gay marriage.

NBC News anchor comes out, expecting baby

NBC News anchor Jenna Wolfe came out publicly on the “Today” show on March 27, and also announced that she and her partner are expecting a baby.

Wolfe’s partner is Stephanie Gosk.

Wolfe is the anchor of NBC News’ “Weekend Today,” and Gosk is a foreign correspondent for the network. They have been a couple for two years.

People said Wolfe, for a story on newstands today, said, “I don’t want to bring my daughter into a world where I’m not comfortable telling everyone who I am and who her mother is.”

Wolfe is blogging for “Today.”

In her first entry on March 27, she wrote, “Of all the jaw-dropping, head-turning and eye-popping things I’ve ever told my friends and family (‘I swam with killer sharks,’ ‘I jet-packed 30 feet out of the water,’ ‘I scaled the tallest building in Canada’), nothing garnered more shock and awe (and, yes, some tears) than when I told people I was pregnant.”

On the Web…

http://www.today.com/moms/surreal-jenna-wolfe-stephanie-gosk-expecting-baby-girl-1C9089090

PFLAG founder Jeanne Manford dies

Jeanne Manford, the founder of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays – the organization that adopted so many LGBT people and helped so many come out as the parent of an LGBT kid – has died.

The gay rights pioneer was 92. She died at home in Daly City, Calif.

A statement from PFLAG’s national executive director, Jody Huckaby: “Today the world has lost a pioneer: Jeanne Manford, the founder of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and the Mother of the Straight Ally movement.

“Jeanne was one of the fiercest fighters in the battle for acceptance and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. It is truly humbling to imagine in 1972 – just 40 years ago – a simple schoolteacher started this movement of family and ally support, without benefit of any of the technology that today makes a grassroots movement so easy to organize. No Internet. No cellphones. Just a deep love for her son and a sign reading ‘Parents of Gays: Unite in Support for Our Children.’

“This simple and powerful message of love and acceptance from one person resonated so strongly it was heard by millions of people worldwide and led to the founding of PFLAG, an organization with more than 350 chapters across the U.S. and 200,000 members and supporters, and the creation of similar organizations across the globe.

“Jeanne’s work was called ‘the story of America…of ordinary citizens organizing, agitating, educating for change, of hope stronger than hate, of love more powerful than any insult or injury,’ in a speech by President Barack Obama in 2009.

“All of us – people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and straight allies alike – owe Jeanne our gratitude. We are all beneficiaries of her courage. Jeanne Manford proved the power of a single person to transform the world. She paved the way for us to speak out for what is right, uniting the unique parent, family, and ally voice with the voice of LGBT people everywhere.”

The family requests that any donations be made to the Jeanne Manford Legacy Fund to support the ongoing work of PFLAG National: 1828 L Street, NW, Suite 660, Washington, DC 20036.

Ricky Martin wishes he could come out again

Latin superstar Ricky Martin told a United Nations conference on homophobia that he wishes he could come out again so he could tell people struggling with their identities that “it’s just beautiful – you find love.”

Martin said on Dec. 11 that “for many years, I lived in fear … because I was hating myself because I grew up listening to a very crooked concept: ‘You’re gay. You belong in hell.’”

Martin, who is currently starring on Broadway in “Evita,” said it was amazing to be at the United Nations surrounded by people “fighting for one cause – equality and love and social justice.”

He praised U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who got a standing ovation after telling the conference that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people “are entitled to the same rights as everyone else.”

“They, too, are born free and equal,” Ban said. “I stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them in their struggle for human rights.”

The secretary-general said he is “pained” that more than 76 countries still criminalize homosexuality.

“I am here to again denounce violence and demand action for true equality,” he said.

While the past decade has seen far-reaching reforms in Europe, the Americas and a number of African and Asian countries, Ban said, in a number of countries – including Ukraine – draft laws have been proposed that would criminalize public discussion of homosexuality.

South African singing star Yvonne Chaka Chaka, a human rights activist and goodwill ambassador for the U.N. children’s fund who is married and has four children, said “I think straight people should respect other people because, for me, I don’t think there’s anything crooked about LGBT.”

Their only “crime,” she said, “is because they love the same gender.”

Marvel superhero to marry his boyfriend

Marvel comic book character Northstar will become the first gay super-hero to walk down the aisle when he marries his boyfriend Kyle in the pages of “Astonishing X-Men” next month.

When he came out in a 1992 issue of “Alpha Flight,” Northstar became the first major gay superhero. Now the comic book world also has out characters like Batwoman, the Question, Wiccan and Hulking.

Soon Northstar aka Jean-Paul Beubier will accomplish another first, marrying partner Kyle Jinadu in June.

Pride month also is when DC comics will reintroduce an “iconic” male superhero as gay.

“When a major comic publisher like Marvel not only includes, but publicly celebrates the legal wedding of two of its gay characters, it is a reflection of how supporting same-sex couples has become the new normal,” said GLAAD president Herndon Graddick. “Readers expect to see their realities portrayed in these fictional worlds and today that includes married gay and lesbian couples.”

xmen

Punker Gabel comes out as transgender

The lead singer of the punk rock band Against Me! comes out as transgender in a Rolling Stone feature arriving on newsstands May 11.

Tom Gabel said she is keeping her birth-given name for now, but eventually she will be known as Laura Jane Grace.

Gabel told RS, “I’m going to have embarrassing moments and that won’t be fun. But that’s a part of what talking to you is about – is hoping people will understand, and hoping they’ll be fairly kind.”

Gabel also told the magazine she and wife Heather, who is “super-amazing and understanding,” will remain married.

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation celebrated Gabel’s openness.

“Tom’s decision to live life authentically is a not only a personal step forward, but one that will advance the national discussion about treating transgender people with fairness,” said GLAAD president Herndon Graddick. “As more and more Americans get to know people who are transgender, they’re coming to embrace and celebrate them.”

To RS, Graddick said, “Tom is displaying extraordinary courage by coming out as transgender after already establishing herself as a rock star. For many of the band’s fans, this may be the first time they’re actually thinking about transgender people and the bravery it sometimes takes in order to be true to yourself.”

He added, “We’ve seen nothing but support from Tom’s fanbase online, and we hope her story will help countless transgender youth who have not had someone like her to relate to before.”

Gabel has been the band’s lead singer since starting it in 1997 at age 17.

Against Me! has released five albums since then and just recently began recording a sixth.

They will tour with The Cult from late May to August.

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