Michael Sam is a talented, good-looking, by all appearances sweet man in his 20’s. He also happens to be primarily attracted to men. He also happens to be black. This bothers some people…ok, it bothers a lot of people. Why? I mean I know why: years of religious fueled bigotry, a US culture consumed by men who do not know how to express their emotional and sexual feelings, and of course just general lack of education and stupidity. What I mean is…why? I watched the video of Michael Sam being drafted by the St. Louis Rams and I saw Mr. Sam passionately and happily kiss his boyfriend Vito Cammisano while his friends and family celebrated his achievement with joyful abandon. The first thing that popped into my head upon seeing the video? Michael Sam is freakin’ enormous. My second thought? These two people are insanely good looking.
I never grew up thinking that being gay was “different”…I actually had (and still do have) much more prejudice against religious people, especially Christians. That is partially because my parents were liberal agnostics who homeschooled us and allowed us to drive our own education. I do not see LGBTQIA people as different…I just don’t. This annoys and confuses many people I know, while others could not care less what I think. I could not care less about what people think about what I think, but it does fascinate me when people so viscerally react against people based on who they kiss, love, and make love to. Call me naive but I just do not understand that sort of fear and prejudice. It baffles me and angers me.
I never saw myself as gay, straight or otherwise. I have always been attracted to women and I have only dated and slept with women but does that mean I would never, or could never, be attracted to a man? Not at all. I don’t put limitations on my feelings. I just have not “found” the “right” guy, so to speak. People are people, and I enjoy people for the most part (as least as much as an autistic writer with a Type-B personality can!) Most of the important people in my life (my best friend, relatives, my wife and many of my in person and online friends) are gay, bi or otherwise a member of the LGBTQIA community. But I do not think of them according to these labels. They are just the people I lvoe. That is it. BUT, that being said, I will not be your friend if you do not treat LGBTQIA people with respect. I will not be friends with you if you judge people based on who they love or how they love. I am a bigot when it comes to bigots!
Am I prejudiced? Of course I am! Everyone is. It is a human trait. I probably have internalized prejudices that I am not even aware of. BUT I try not to treat people by how society chooses to label them. Perhaps some of this has to do with my autism; I see all people as a sort of warm, neutral, blank face attached to a body. I can really only appreciate two or three emotional expressions and I am not able to comprehend most emotional complexity in a conversation. I spend much more time worrying about whether a person is angry at me then I ever would worrying about who they slept with or the melanin content of their skin. I understand that I benefit from my society’s inherent racism and bigotry against blacks, women and LGBTQIA people, even if I wish I did not. I try my best to not let that privilege color my view of the world and the people in it but of course that is an impossible task to fully accomplish…but that does not mean I do not fight every day in big or small ways to make the world a little more fair.
People need to let other people just live. Everyone has the right to try and be happy. As long as you do not hurt someone (without their consent at least) you should be free to do as you wish. I do not and will never understand why a natural expression of human love and affection would offend anyone. Being Gay is not weird no more or less than it is weird to be straight or anything else. People are gay because they are people. That is a fact of life. We should appreciate that and respect it. I was lucky enough to be raised in a home that valued people and did not try to judge them but that does not mean that upbringing alone excuses behavior. We must not be cruel, we must not judge, and we must remember that sometimes two very good looking people kissing is just that…”even” if they are both men.
I wish Michael Sam good luck on his training and I hope he makes the team if only for the inspiration it would give to people who have been told their whole lives they cannot aspire to be the best because of who they are or who they love. Michael Sam is not the best football player in the world and he is not the worst. He is not the first gay man to play professional football (he is the first OPENLY gay man to be drafted) and he will not be the last. But he is a man and a person and he can play ball. That should be enough for everyone.
And goodness gracious is he freakin’ enormous.