Alex Blaze

John Amaechi came out!

Filed By Alex Blaze | February 12, 2007 5:11 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: coming out of the closet, John Amaechi, Rosie O'Donnell, Ted Haggard

Last week! Or when he was fourteen. Or some time in between.

Hmmmm.... He just got named today as the spokesperson for the HRC's Coming Out Project. If you're like me, you might have wondered if naming someone who just came out last week to help others come out is such a good idea. I mean, would he be ready to be experienced enough in outness and would he be over the shock of coming out in one week?

Of course, his coming out wasn't that simple. There's a video up on the HRC webpage (link above) where he gives more information about his outness. He first came out to his sister at fourteen, and in the later years of his NBA career, he was out in his native England and an open secret here amongst his teammates.

This makes you think about how and when someone is considered out. I think that most queer people already know that coming out is more than one announcement. But you have to wonder about whether Ted Haggard can properly have been outed by Mike Post. Haggard still hasn't said that he's gay, but pretty much everyone all over the country knows that he prefers men. Is he out? Amaechi identified as gay at age fourteen, and most people important to him knew before last week. Was he out before the announcement of his book? Rosie O'Donnell was out to everyone in her personal life before she publicly came out, and if MadTV sketches are history, pretty much everyone in the country knew she was a lesbian before she came out (even she thought that everyone knew, she said later in an interview). Can her announcement really be called coming out?

This may seem like splitting hairs on a term that inherently means different things to different people. But when we invest ourselves in helping others come out, setting up "Coming Out Projects", talking about the ethics of outing others, and constructing our own coming out narratives, we should wonder about what exactly we're talking.

And, more importantly, by making someone the official spokesperson on coming out, are we making one definition, one coming out story, prescriptive or normative?

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Relax, Bil.

He'll do fine.

It's way past time that an athlete did this.

Thanks Anon, but it's not my post. :)

I think he'll do fine too. The more of us that stand up and take our place at the table the better.

I didn't mean to imply that he'll do badly, but that we need to reconsider what it means to be out.

I'm personally aware of a few local professional athletes, past or present, who've been gay. They were petrified to be public, although one did visit local gay bars on occasion. He was almost never recognized...which was surreal. Or maybe patrons just gave him his space and left him alone (gorgeous man!).

The time in which these athletes have to earn decent salaries, is so short (three to five years, average) that the average to moderate pros are working hard, saving money for post-sports careers, and trying to sort out their lives. It's difficult.

Amaechi is not the first. He'll hopefully pave the way for others. It's long overdue.

Sadly, another ex-NBA player, Tim Hardaway, has responded to Amaechi by saying, "I don't like gay people and I don't like to be around gay people. I am homophobic. I don't like it. It shouldn't be in the world or in the United States."

It's amazing how one man from an oppressed minority can very quickly and easily become the oppressor of a different oppressed minority. Amazing, sad, and pathetic.