Predictably, we heard two reactions this week to the coming out of college football player and NFL prospect Michael Sam.
The first was something like "good for him, congratulations, what a courageous move."
The second was "who cares, no one needs to know about his sexuality or personal life."
(There was a third reaction too, one that likely included words like "faggot" and "cocksucker" but thankfully we've reached the point where the people who spout that hate do so in the privacy of their own small minds.)
There's something to be said for both the first two reactions. Sam's move is courageous, particularly in light of continued homophobia in football. Imagine the reaction to Jackie Robinson when he played in all-white major league baseball for the first time.
And yes, it's true, none of us really needs to know about who Sam is attracted to. The bottom line should be: can this guy play football and can help his team win. That's all that should matter.
But we still live in a world where people are verbally and physically attacked, even killed, for being gay, every day -- in Russia, throughout the Middle East and Africa, and even in North America. Until that becomes exceedingly rare, gay role models will continue to be important.
I think, though, that there's another profound issue that gets overlooked by the white hot light of Sam's publicly acknowledged homosexuality. He could have waited until after he was selected by the NFL to avoid potentially damaging his promising and lucrative career. He could led a life in an open closet, gay to his friends and family but never acknowledging his sexuality to the rest of us, like many celebrities do. Or he could have stayed in the closet, as hundreds of other athletes have done in the past. But he made an earnest choice, to be the person he truly is, no matter the consequences.
I make my living as a writer, primarily an advertising copywriter. But I'm gay and passionately political about many issues. And so, in my blog writing, I've always tried to find a balance between "being professional" and writing about everything I care about, no matter the consequences. I've always known it was a calculated risk. I might turn off potential clients -- or even current ones -- who disagree with my point of view or who are offended in some way. But I decided long ago that I would rather be who I am, warts and all. If I was good enough at what I do, I hoped the rest wouldn't matter.
As far as I can tell, it hasn't hurt me one bit.
I'm sure I've unknowingly lost a prospective client here or there. But I suspect that my honesty and sincerity have mostly worked in my favour, not against me.
Some people will always hate or resent you -- whether you're black or gay or Jewish or a liberal. Some will always love you. But I believe the majority, even if they don't agree with you entirely, will actually respect you more for simply, apologetically, being who you are.
Like Oscar Wilde. Like Ellen DeGeneres and Ellen Page. Like Michael Sam.