When Michael Sam, hoping to join the NFL, came out as gay, a lot of professional football players went into overtly homophobic mode, talking about sharing showers with an openly gay player and how uncomfortable that might be, because, you know, gay men are predators and in the safety of an NFL locker-room shower, well, who knows what we might do. I was disgusted by this display of ignorance and narrow-mindedness, and then Deion Sanders, a former Dallas Cowboy, spoke up, saying:
“I don’t condone or condemn, but I’m going to love him. He’s not the first gay guy in the NFL. He’s the first one to come out. Let’s get that straight.”
While I appreciated Sanders saying that he had played with many gay teammates over the years and never had an issue, let me also say that gay people do not need our lives to be condoned by anyone. But, I thought Sanders could spark an intelligent dialogue that took people’s minds out of the showers and into the realm of what being gay is: just another sexual orientation. And then Sanders gave another interview, this time with Larry King, in which he says a little more about homosexuality, and God, and what he thinks about it all, and it ain’t pretty.
He talked about Michael Sam and homosexuality, and reaching out to Sam to offer his support; he talked about his gay cousin, whom he's known was gay since they were kids. But then he threw religion into the mix and, well, he has an entirely different view than the openness and acceptance he’s shown before. Larry King asked about Michael Sam, and Sanders replied:
“I'm not saying I condone it, but I don't condemn it. I don't love what he do but I love him as a man. And I just wanted him to understand the burden and the weight he's carrying.”
When you say, in your form of English, “I don’t love what he do” that is a condemnation; that is saying that, by being gay, you find him unacceptable; you said you didn’t condemn Sam for being gay and then you turned right around and condemned him for it.
And why, Deion, do you think Michael Sam, or any LGBTQ person on the planet needs you to condone our lives? Condone means “to accept and allow (behavior that is considered morally wrong or offensive) to continue” but we don’t need you to “condone” our behavior, our lives, our love, just as you don’t need for us to condone your sexual orientation. To say you neither condone nor condemn anyone for being gay sounds suspiciously like a judgment, and we all know what the Bible says about that.
Well, King wasn’t through with that line of questioning, and next he asked Sanders if he thought being gay was a choice. Sanders said, “It could be,” and when King asked who would choose to be gay, Sanders replied, “Who wouldn't?” and then added,
“Well, we can get into saying God did this and God did that. The God I know don't make mistakes.”
Okay, so your God, whomever She may be, doesn’t make mistakes; maybe that means being gay is not a mistake? Maybe that means God make gay folks and straight folks to see how we’d all get along. And, Deion, with your answers about gay and not condoning or condemning it — while doing exactly that — I wonder if your God doesn’t think she made a mistake with you? If you believe in God and believe that god doesn’t make mistakes, and believe that God made us all, then none of us are a mistake; we are as God made us.
But let’s think about “choice,” and how Deion thinks we chose to be gay.
I would assume that means everyone got the choice to go Gay or to go Straight, and yet I haven’t heard one single straight person tell their story of trying to be gay and then deciding it wasn’t for them, so they switched directions. I haven’t heard a single straight person make that choice, and yet, for some reason, you think I did make the choice take Option Gay?
I do think, sadly, that many gay people have chosen to be straight, or at least to live their lives as straight people, out of fear of being disowned by their families, unloved by their parents, ignored by their friends, but I don’t think a single straight person has chosen to be gay.
I know I didn’t; I know I was born gay. I mean, why would I “choose” to be gay when choosing to be straight would be so much easier? Had I chosen heterosexuality I could take any job, anywhere and not be fired for being straight; I could live anywhere I want and not be denied housing for being hetero. It would be so much easier, and yet you think I chose this more difficult path?
I chose to take the chance that, like Matthew Shepard, I could be beaten and left for dead, tied to a fence in Wyoming? I chose to take that risk?
I chose to live my live wondering if that, by just walking down the street, like Candice Rose, a transgender woman, I could be beaten by three men, and left on the street with a broken jaw and head injuries. I would choose that?
I would choose to be perceived to be gay so that, again, just by being out in public, Kathryn Knott, Kevin Harrigan and Philip Williams could verbally assault and physically attack me? Who would choose that?
And what young person, growing up and reading about these attacks, and all the other attacks, on LGBTQ people, would choose to be gay? Wouldn’t it be easier to be straight, and to be able to work where you want, live where you want, walk down any street that you want, without fear of being harassed and beaten and fired and evicted?
And what about all those suicides of LGBTQ youth? Taunted and teased and harassed and shoved and pushed and hit and kicked and beaten until they feel their only choice to stop it all is to take their own loves? Why wouldn’t they make that other choice and choose to be straight? It might save their lives, right?
But we don’t choose to be gay any more that anyone chooses to be straight. We were born gay, as you were born straight, and we just want what everyone else wants, and what most straight people take for granted: that we can live our lives and love who we love without fear of attack.
I didn’t choose to be gay, I am gay. What I choose is to live a life where I am not victimized or marginalized or condoned or condemned.