last week, university of massachusetts basketball player derrick gordon became the first division one male player to publicly self-identify as gay. his story was reported with great sensitivity by cyd zeigler of outsports magazine. in addition to the locker room teasing, zeigler noted, was a photograph of gordon and his boyfriend outside a gay bar in new jersey posted on instagram.
sadly, gordon admitted he considered leaving the sport he loves so passionately. uncomfortable in his own skin, he told his teammates he was straight, hoping their "snickers and snide remarks," would cease. but they didn't. some wouldn't shower with him. the sophomore guard, who averaged 9.4 points last season, avoided parties, stayed up nights crying and isolated - fearful of his sexuality being exposed.
gordon said, "most of the time when you see me on campus, i'm alone. i eat alone a lot. since the school year started in september i haven't been to one party. i'm always working out or lifting in my room. i do the same thing over and over every day. i feel like i can't be who i am or live my life. nobody should ever feel that way."
earlier this month, at his request, umass head coach derek kellogg called a team meeting. kellogg, in the spirit of support, told his team gordon was gay. however, gordon was not alone. he'd met some openly gay athletes and visited philadelphia, where he saw their comfort and happiness. in fact, two of the men were with him in the locker room as he shared his gay identity with his teammates.
as gordon poignantly shared his story of alienation, loneliness and shame, many of the men wept openly. later, one of the gay men said, "it was powerful for these players to see one of their brothers be so vulnerable. these are some inner-city kids, some rough, tough kids who derrick wants to be friends with. they understand who he is a little bit better now."
gordon now benefits from support outside the team. nba veteran and brooklyn nets forward jason collins - whom gordon credited with encouraging him when he came out a year ago - tweeted his praise for gordon. collins wrote, "i'm so proud @flash2gordon. another brave young man who is going to make it easier for so many others to live an authentic life. #courage.
the school, in a statement, is supportive. athletic director john mccutcheon said, "umass is proud to have derrick gordon as a member of our athletic family and to honor his courage and openness as a gay student-athlete. umass is committed to creating a welcoming climate where every student-athlete, coach and staff member can be true to themselves as they pursue their athletic, academic and professional goals."
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.