I came out on Sept. 7, 2012, when a piece I wrote in support of same-sex rights for Deadspin went viral. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m a heterosexual white male, so my coming out wasn’t anywhere close to what members of the LGBTQ community face, especially in the many parts of the country where it’s still viewed as a “sin,” or “unnatural,” to be non-heterosexual, but there were ramifications nevertheless.
Many of my teammates were interested in why I chose to take a stand on this issue. Some disagreed with my position, most agreed, but all had no problem with how I expressed my views. They understood that when we were in the locker room, if they wanted to have a conversation on this issue, I’d be more than happy to talk to them about it, but if they didn’t, I wasn’t going to shove it in their face.
Most of them did want to have that conversation, even some of the ones that disagreed. They felt it was worth talking about, which I thought was a good sign. Players are part of the younger generation, and the majority of them get it. They have a gay friend, or family member, or acquaintance. They know this shouldn’t be an issue.
My coaches weren’t quite so keen to have that discussion, details of which I won’t get into here (they’re pretty easy to find on Google), but the result was that I was fired from my job the following year. Coaches and management tend to be primarily older, white men, so I can’t say I was too surprised. Viewpoints in that demographic tend to be somewhat “stagnant,” shall we say. I had hoped for better, but it happened, and now I’m dealing with it. Life goes on. Hopefully one day they’ll figure out some things are more important than a children’s game.
I also had some very interesting interactions with fans of the team. I got a lot of mail, an overwhelming amount of which was supportive, and I noticed a distinct correlation between proper formatting, spelling and grammar, and the likelihood of the letter’s author supporting rights for same-sex couples. There were a couple crazy letters, some Chick Tracts, and a few angry letters that were REALLY angry. Like, I had run over their dog, lit their house on fire, and then barbecued grandma over the smoldering ashes instead of just speaking out for basic human rights. I don’t know if those people will ever get it, but that’s why it’s so important for all of us to come out and support each other, no matter what your sexual orientation or skin color or religion.
When active members of the NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, or any other major sport, act to support the LGBTQ community, we make it clear that the kind of attitude that would write a single-spaced, five-page letter stained with mouth froth and bile is no longer welcome in a civilized society. We make it easier on those who face discrimination within their communities for their sexuality or gender identity, to find allies and friends. We help someone to openly live with the person they love, an employee to work without fear of harassment, a parent to understand that their kid isn’t “weird,” or “tainted,” or “damned,” but simply a human being, just like everyone else, and that they need to be loved and cared for, not despised or “cured.” It may cost us, but if you don’t stand for someone else, who will stand for you?
I came out on Sept. 7, 2012, and I do not regret it for an instant.
Chris Kluwe is a former NFL punter who played for the Minnesota Vikings.