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Michael Sam, why he matters and why his decision is important.

by on February 10, 2014

For those that don’t know, Michael Sam is a defensive player from the SEC (Missouri) and is slated to come into the NFL next year once he is drafted.  And when he is drafted he will become the first openly gay athlete in any major sport within the U.S.  He has decided to come out in a sport that is considered the “gladiator” sport of our era.

As I first heard the news yesterday I was filled with excitement to see how peoples reactions would be, and in typical fashion I was thoroughly disappointed by the lack of understanding and the lack of acknowledgement of its importance.  The typical response of “who cares” or “it doesn’t matter” or “distraction” would normally not bug me too much but in this case it has dug under my skin.

It gets under my skin because in part it reminds me of an attitude I once had when I was younger, and it also belittles the importance of having someone finally break a barrier in such a masculine sport.  When I was younger I wasn’t against gay marriage or equal rights, but I had the flippant attitude of if it isn’t affecting me then why should I care?  I was confused as to why there was a Pride Parade in Chicago, and even made a post about  how it annoyed me (back in the Myspace days) because of the traffic issues it caused.  Since then I have come to understand why the parade is important as it exemplifies how far gay rights have come along, among a myriad of other important reasons.  And since my more ignorant days I have befriended many colorful people of the gay community who I consider some of my best friends, and with having amazing friends like that to learn from I have been able to shed my naive and ignorant past and become an activist for their cause.

The importance of this issue lies within the shame our culture puts on younger gays in school, especially in the teen years.  There are studies that show that 1 in 3 gay teens have attempted suicide and have a rate of attempted suicide five times higher than heterosexual teens.  There are also studies that show an increase in drug abuse, being bullied, homelessness, increased risk to HIV and STD’s, and higher rates of depression.  Which is all directly linked to parents and peers not being accepting of and/or rejecting their lifestyle.  As these cultural attitudes of homophobia and rejection decrease in prevalence, so will the effects of these attitudes.  So anytime someone of importance comes out to lead the charge like this it greatly reduces barriers for gay teens to burst through the negative attitudes thrown at them.  This is a decision by Michael Sam, that will not only change lives, but it will probably save some.

While this may seem like a non-issue for us heterosexuals, as we sit comfortably without fear and without shame for our accepted lifestyle.   It is a game changer for the LGBT community as they now have someone who they could look up to, and someone that could give them more strength amid a culture of hatred and bigotry.  So if you are one of those people who thinks this isn’t important or that it doesn’t matter, your likely not considering the ramifications this has on people that need news like this to have a more complete and enjoyable life.

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