About a year into writing my memoir, one of my best friends back home set me back. Why do you need to write about that? was her first question. Fair enough. Then, with more concern, But do you need to publish it? Maybe you could write a fun novel. You know, fictionalize it. Make stuff up. And then, because she seemed to feel I wasn’t listening to her concerns, came, I’m serious. What if your family never speaks to you again?
Why, but, maybe, what if…
Michael Sam, football star at the University of Missouri, has announced he’s a gay man and wants to play in the NFL. When I heard this news last night, I thought, “Good for him for just speaking his truth. How brave.” After all, his teammates at Missouri have known at least for the past year; it doesn’t seem to bother them; they had an incredible season; and Michael Sam is a leader, an integral member of their team. He’s expected to go in the 3rd round of the draft.
While a few pros have already come out in support of Sam for his forthrightness, for his openness, for his choosing not to hide with shame and fear, a few others have already openly said things like, But I don’t want to be with him in the locker room. What if I’m getting dressed next to him and he looks at me funny? (Admittedly, I’ve always thought this was the most narcissistic of arguments: So you think that EVERY human on earth, attracted to men, will want to bed you? *scratches head*) And yet another who said, with a childish chuckle, something about Sam not being a real man.
It’s 5 years on, and my friend has stopped asking me about the writing of my memoir. Maybe it’s been so long that she figures I’ve given up on the whole idea. Maybe she’s just hoping I’ve been taught a lesson along the way and have decided to keep my mouth (and my pen) shut. But the truth is that no matter her very real concerns or even honorable intentions, I can’t help but wonder why we are so relieved when people maintain a shiny surface and keep their “private business” to themselves.
Congratulations to Michael Sam for not choosing to live in fear, and for speaking his truth. Congratulations to Michael Sam for standing up and being a man, and to his young teammates who support him. We should all be cheering for them.