Professional basketball player Jason Collins has gone public with his sexuality, becoming the first active male athlete in major professional sports to come out as openly gay.
"I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay," Collins, who played for the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards before recently becoming a free agent, declares
in the May 6 issue of Sports Illustrated. "I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I'm happy to start the conversation," he adds.
Collins said it was a long process for him to accept his own sexuality and reveal the secret to others. "Imagine you're in the oven, baking. Some of us know and accept our sexuality right away and some need more time to cook. I should know - I baked for 33 years." He said he's now focused on continuing to do what he loves, play basketball. "I still love the game, and I still have something to offer. My coaches and teammates recognize that. At the same time, I want to be genuine and authentic and truthful."
Collins said that one inspiration for his decision to come out was his good friend, U.S. Representative Joe Kennedy, a big supporter of gay rights issues. "I realized I needed to go public when Joe Kennedy, my old roommate at Stanford and now a Massachusetts congressman, told me he had just marched in Boston's 2012 Gay Pride Parade. I'm seldom jealous of others, but hearing what Joe had done filled me with envy. I was proud of him for participating, but angry that as a closeted gay man I couldn't even cheer my straight friend on as a spectator." Collins plans to join Kennedy in this year’s parade in June.
He also said that the recent Boston Marathon bombings had "reinforced the notion that I shouldn't wait for the circumstances of my coming out to be perfect."