National Basketball Association star Jason Collins, a free agent who has played for six pro teams, has bravely shared his story in a piece headlined "The Gay Athlete." As Jason states at the start of the story:
"I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay. I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I'm happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn't the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, 'I'm different.' If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand."
Why is he coming out now? He said he started thinking about this in 2011 during the NBA player lockout. "I'm a creature of routine. When the regular season ends I immediately dedicate myself to getting game ready for the opener of the next campaign in the fall. But the lockout wreaked havoc on my habits and forced me to confront who I really am and what I really want. With the season delayed, I trained and worked out. But I lacked the distraction that basketball had always provided."
The first relative he came out to was his aunt Teri, who surprised him when she said she'd known he was gay for years. "From that moment on I was comfortable in my own skin. In her presence I ignored my censor button for the first time. She gave me support. The relief I felt was a sweet release. Imagine you're in the oven, baking. Some of us know and accept our sexuality right away and some need more time to cook. I should know -- I baked for 33 years." It took him a long time to accept his feelings. "When I was younger I dated women. I even got engaged. I thought I had to live a certain way. I thought I needed to marry a woman and raise kids with her. I kept telling myself the sky was red, but I always knew it was blue."
He said the recent Boston Marathon bombings reinforced the idea that he shouldn't wait for the circumstances of his coming out to be perfect. "Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully?"