I'm trying my best not to make Michael Sam's journey about me. He's a courageous young man and has been a phenomenal ambassador for Mizzou and will do the same for the LGBT community as (potentially) it's first representative at the NFL. But his statement last night has really struck me in a way I did not expect and I'm trying to process it all right now.
Anyone who knows me has a workable knowledge that I'm a centrist at heart and that I hate hard stances on pretty much any issue. I believe that there are too many gaps or gray areas in most argments in which someone can point at an option and say "yes, this is definitively the correct answer". But there are a few issues that I will take a stand on, and equality is one of them.
No, I'm not some pure-of-heart philanthropist that champions for the individual and hunger strikes for those being oppressed. I'm just a dude, a very fallible dude. I stereotype, often. I make jokes about those stereotypes, often. I'll throw around terms that shouldn't be used. But despite all of this I just want people, ALL people, to have a fair chance in life. I don't make decisions based off of stereotypes because I'm a firm believer that if anyone is given the same shot everyone else has been given the results will be the same. If you treat someone humanely they'll be humane, right? Isn't that the Golden Rule we've been taught since kindergarden? Because of this belief I've, for the longest time, desired for people's differences to be met with "oh, ok" and then filed away as "trait about a person" and not as "definable obstacle to overcome".
Please allow me a segue: the video game series Mass Effect is an epic space adventrue spanning three separate games depicting the actions of one soldier (your character) fighting to unite the galaxy against a militarily and technologically superior force bent on harvesting all living life. In short: EXTREMELY DIRE SITUATION. It was lauded for mechanics and story but was met with criticism over the fact that many characters, important or not, would be in homosexual relationships. The game's narrative never rubbed it in the player's face about it, just in conversations your character had with various other characters you would hear your male pilot mention that he lost his husband in a battle, or a villainess would lament that her wife was being held captive. And all the characters in the game's universe just....well, it was normal for them. It was met with "we'll fight to avenge your husband" not "Lol you're gay whut?". And as I played these games years ago I sat and thought to myself, wow, I can't wait until our society can treat this issue like that.
Well, you know what? It just happened. Of all groups of people in this world the Missouri Football Tigers, my beloved team, an 90+man roster with around 20 coaches and staff ALL of whom have been the aggressive athlete bully-type that Hollywood has made familiar to us, were the first to look at a man's differences and say "oh, ok". The took that information, thought about it, realized "well, it's still Mike" and stood by him. Yes, there were those who might have had differening opinions on homosexual relationships in general but that didn't stop them from giving Michael Sam the chance to play, the chance to lead, or the chance to represent the team and the university to the rest of the world. THAT is what I've wanted for so long. THAT'S what equality means to me. And we have a long way to go before my ideal, and I'm sure many millions of other's ideals, is met. But guys, a locker room of 18-22 year olds just showed us what maturity towards tolerance and equality can be. And that is a gigantic step forward.
God bless you boys. And God bless you Michael Sam. You have a legion of fans pulling for you no matter the team.