“If you can play, you can play.”
There was a time, not so long ago, when “gay” was a dirty word. When Rent flew in the face of all that was respectable with it’s toe-to-the-line subject matter and flamboyant handling of taboo vocabulary. The AIDS epidemic notwithstanding, being gay was anathema in too much of the world.
I remember when REM frontman Michael Stipe came out of the closet. I remember when “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was passed as official policy (that was 1993, you babes). I remember when The Laramie Project was received with whispers and horrified hushed voices, instead of outrage and united recognition of a human rights mission.
I don’t know what specifically has happened since that time that I remember – about 15 years ago. I know Rent became quotable instead of shocking. I know Will & Grace became the neighbors everyone wants to have, and The Birdcage became a comedy about real people who are farcical, not a farce about unreal people.
The military has ditched Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Same sex partners and spouses are getting more rights within the armed forces. Gay marriage a mainstay in the supreme courts. We’re not there yet, but we’re getting there.
And what was once a smattering of cries in the night has become a chorus of multi-racial, multi-societal voices. As a human nation, we’re beginning to recognize human beings as human beings. In a few short decades, we’ve started to transcend the stigma of ignorant thinking. Fashion, movies, dance, and art are two steps ahead of athletics. Now it’s time for United States athletes and fans to join in.
To that end, there’s a magnificent organization called You Can Play. It’s had some serious traction in the year since it was formed by three remarkable men with a daunting task ahead of them. Their mission is to “ensure equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation.” It “seeks to challenge the culture of locker rooms and spectator areas by focusing only on an athlete’s skills, work ethic and competitive spirit.”
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, of ‘Thrift Shop’ fame, have signed on with a simple observation: “Anti-gay language has no place in music or sports; if you can play, you can play.” So open your eyes to the humanity of those around them. Get to know people, not labels. And check out You Can Play. Consider adding your name to their pledge, or spreading the word. Because the world has changed in the past 20 years, but it is still full of amazing, talented, remarkable human beings who are born with a right to have respect, to use their gifts, and to thrive in this world.