A reminder that we live in a world that still has a way to go when it comes to LGBT acceptance.
Out soccer player Robbie Rogers wrote on his Facebook page last night about an opposing player - for the first time since he became the first openly gay professional athlete in the U.S. - calling him "queer," and the impact it had on him.
From Robbie's Facebook page:
"Shit Off My Chest: 4 years later."
After being out injured for two months with an Achilles surgery I finally made my return last night.
In the heat of the last fifteen minutes of the game a player from the opposing team called me a "queer" repeatedly. To be honest my initial reaction was one of shock. This is my fourth season back in the MLS and I've yet to hear another player use that or any other gay slur during a game. I quickly became enraged, I spent the drive home wishing I had channeled my inner Zidane and punched or head-butted this player even though I knew punching this person wouldn't have helped either of us, my team, or the greater cause of advancing equality in sports. I went to bed upset last night. Angry at this player and and his ignorance. Angry at myself for not doing more in the moment. Sad the we still live in a time where this kind of intolerance still exists in my sport and elsewhere. And if I'm being honest, I was even a bit ashamed that a single word could make me feel, even just for a moment, all the awful feelings I felt for so many years: small, less than, wrong, and unworthy of love and respect by my family or god forbid by my teammates.
But it was just for a moment.
Minutes later my head was back in the game. And this morning even most of the anger has faded and the predominant emotions left are just love and gratitude. I'm happy that I practiced restraint worthy of my sport. I'm thankful for the many players on my team and even the opposing one who apologized to me for one man's actions. Today, I woke up grateful to work in organization filled with so many players and coaches who have worked hard to practice tolerance of everyone and to help change a culture.
But mostly I'm proud of myself. I am proud more than ever that I had the courage to come out as a queer man. I feel so fortunate to have gotten to share my story with others and to have gotten to play this sport I love so much as an openly gay person. I am, more than ever, thankful to have teammates and a family that love and support me for the son, brother, partner, father and queer player that I am.
I'm encouraging, as I did when I came out four years ago, all athletes to find the courage within themselves to come out. Listen, only you know when and how it's best for you to live your truth and share your story, but each one of you that chooses to make this courageous step is not just vastly improving your own life but literally saving others.
Robbie continues to inspire.
I completely get Robbie's thought that he was "ashamed that a single word" could affect him so strongly. I think most gay men still have that knee-jerk reaction when we hear the words that taunted us in the past in today's social landscape.
I have to say thanks to Robbie for sharing the incident and how it processed through his heart and mind.