Derrick Gordon Coming Out Blazes More Trails for Gay Athletes Everywhere





Although they weren’t expecting to win the title this year, the UMass Minutemen also didn’t think they’d get bounced in their opening game of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. During that loss to Tennessee, sophomore guard Derrick Gordon played relatively well and didn’t stand out to anyone as being “weird”. Of course, no one knew at the time he was gay, an announcement he made on Wednesday morning, but that didn’t affect his play on the court or how anyone viewed him during the tournament.

So as the trend for “first” openly gay athletes in every sport continues, Gordon has made his mark as the first in men’s college basketball to come out. However, his journey is still just beginning, even though he’s already come a long way.

Gordon played his freshman year at Western Kentucky and led the Hilltoppers in scoring and into the 2013 NCAA Tournament. But to be closer to his family, he transferred to UMass as a sophomore and started for the Minutemen, scoring 9.4 points per game.

He says he came out to his family, coaches and teammates shortly after his team’s exit from the tournament and that Jason Collins signing a 10-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets in February gave him the confidence to announce his sexuality to the world. He also says that made him more confident he would be accepted in the NBA one day, although he has not declared for the 2014 NBA Draft and it’s unknown at this point whether or not he’ll return to UMass for his junior year.

Regardless, he’ll be a big story in the 2014-15 basketball season as an upperclassmen for a tournament-caliber team or a draft prospect fighting all the battles of Michael Sam, who is looking to become the first openly gay player in the NFL this fall as a rookie. But just like his short journey has seemed long, Gordon knows he’s still got a long ways to go.

Related:

Michael Sam’s Sexuality Shouldn’t Affect His NFL Draft Stock
Michael Sam, Tim Tebow Prove What is Wrong With America
Jason Collins Signing is Great Moment for Brooklyn Nets and NBA

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  • Arthur Fern

    WHY IS THIS A STORY By Daniel Malone | Special to MassLive, April 10, 2014

    Why is this a story? Why should I care about someone else’s personal life?

    Without fail, each and every story of an athlete making the immensely difficult, life-altering decision to come out as a member of the LGBT community is met with variations of these questions.

    Wednesday, it was University of Massachusetts sophomore basketball player Derrick Gordon who came out as a gay after a years-long struggle of trying to hide his true self from what can be often be a cruel, cruel world.

    Why is this a story? Why should I care about someone else’s personal life?

    Funny, those questions never seem to stop the millions who mindlessly devour the latest Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus “news” on celebrity gossip websites or entertainment channels.

    Why, of all the things to care about in this world, that type of nonsense becomes a story might be a better question to ask.

    In Gordon’s case, and in the cases of LGBT athletes everywhere, the real answers are two-fold.

    Why should I care about someone else’s personal life?

    Truthfully, you don’t have to care. You don’t have to care about Gordon’s sexuality or Michael Sam’s or Jason Collins’ or Brittney Griner’s. There’s no one tying you down into a chair, prying your eyelids open and forcing you to read about how Gordon staved off potentially-crippling depression and stayed true to himself.

    You don’t have to read the uplifting story of a man freed of a crushing burden. You simply don’t have to smile along with Gordon as he lights up a room discussing the unwavering support of his friends, family and teammates in light of his decision.

    That’s a personal choice, even if the inverse relationship between apparent caring and story comments continually paints a different picture.

    Why is this a story?

    Because it’s important. More important than many may choose to believe.

    It’s true that the day is coming when an announcement such as Gordon’s won’t necessarily be newsworthy. Or, at least, not necessarily newsworthy in the sense that it requires a press conference and a SportsCenter feature. That day, like a runaway locomotive, is coming harder and faster every day.

    But even when it does, the importance of someone like Gordon coming out will remain. Because the LGBT in sports movement – all movements worth their weight, really – need a face. It needs Gordon’s smiling face. It needs the faces of Collins, Sam, Griner and countless others to come. It needs lots of faces.

    With a face, a movement can be humanized and grounded in reality. With a familiar face, a movement becomes relatable for even those who couldn’t possibly begin to relate to Gordon’s life-long struggle to be himself. Suddenly, the fight for equality and human rights isn’t about someone else – it’s about someone people care about, someone people admire and respect.

    Maybe athletes aren’t always perfect role models. But for someone out there – maybe someone you know and love – Gordon’s decision to come out as gay may have just opened the door to new and better life.

    Why is this a story? Why should I care about someone’s personal life?

    Because knowledge is power. Because with that power, lives can be changed and saved.

    According to a 2011 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report, LGBT youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide as their straight peers.

    Maybe, just maybe, the power derived from the fortitude and courage of those like Gordon will help a scared middle-schooler who’s afraid to get on the school bus each morning because he can’t stand to face the taunting bullies yet another day.

    Or perhaps it’ll help the frightened and confused teenager who won’t go out for fall or spring sports because she doesn’t feel safe in the locker room.

    Why is this a story? Why should I care about someone else’s personal life?

    Because maybe it might have helped Carlos Vigil, a gay 17-year-old boy from New Mexico who tweeted “I’m sorry for not being a person that would make people proud” before committing suicide in July 2013 following years of bullying.

    Because maybe it might have helped Jadin Bell, a gay 15-year-old boy from Oregon who was taken off life support in February 2013 after attempting to hang himself on an elementary school playground as a result of being bullied.

    Because maybe it might have helped Kenneth Weishuhn, a gay 14-year-old boy from Iowa who took his own life in April 2012 after he was made the subject of a hate group of Facebook and sent death threats from classmates.

    Because maybe it might have helped Jamie Hubley, a gay 15-year-old boy from Ottawa, Canada who chronicled his battle with bullying and depression before turning to suicide in October 2011.

    Because maybe it might have helped Jamey Rodmeyer, a gay 14-year-old boy from New York who killed himself in September 2011 after years of harassment about his sexuality.

    Because maybe it might have helped Tyler Clementi, a gay 18-year-old student at Rutgers University who jumped to his death off the George Washington Bridge in New York City in September 2010 after being outed online and cyber bullied.

    Because maybe it might have helped Jim Wheeler, a gay 19-year-old from Pennsylvania whose struggle with homophobic bullying was memorialized in a 2003 documentary titled “Jim in Bold” six years after he took his own life.

    Why is this a story? Why should I care about someone else’s personal life?.

    Because maybe it’s not too late. Maybe Gordon’s decision to come out to world can still help those of all ages, genders, races and beliefs who are teetering on the edge of depression and suicide.

    Gordon’s legacy as a pioneer for the LGBT in the sports movement is just beginning to be written. How it’ll read in five, 10 or even 50 years is anyone’s guess.

    Here’s to a happy ending to Gordon’s tale and the tale of a new generation of love and acceptance. Here’s to an end to comment section indifference and hate. Here’s to why this is a story.