Gay athlete like me; Donal Og Cusack says Jason Collins is on the same journey
“By putting himself out there... he has allowed other people to grow,” says Cork star
There are little shards stuck in my brain. Somebody told me that my team mate Ben O’ Connor had been talking about me. I had to know what Ben had said. It turned out that Ben said “if there are thirty of us in this squad surely there’s one among us that is gay and if Ogie is gay I don’t give a fuck. It won’t change one bit what I think of him.”
We had a meeting in the dressing room after training one night. Our Captain, Sean Og O hAilpin laid out the story to the lads. “One of us is having a bit of trouble with the media…”
I hardly noticed but Brian Corcoran, a god to us in that dressing room came as Sean Og was speaking and sat beside me and put his arm over my shoulder as Sean Og spoke. No other words were needed.
I had conversations with some teammates through that period that went deeper than any conversations which sport on its own could have thrown us into. We formed bonds that will never be broken. I wouldn’t swap those moments for anything.
I still define myself as a sportsman, a son, a brother, a Cork man, as a hundred things but that’s the point. Since that time so many young men and women have come to me to talk about their own situations and my message has been the same. Don’t let anybody else define you. Don’t ever let any one thing define you. No one owns the definition of love. That will help you stay sane and be happy.
Over the last few weeks the issue of gay players coming out while still active in team sports seems to have occupied a huge proportion of the back pages. All these decades after Jackie Robinson first faced down the hate it seems unlikely that we could even still be talking about matters like this but the stories of Robbie Rogers and Jason Collins reminds us of how slowly the world turns.
Rogers is the Leeds United soccer player who announced his sexuality and his retirement from pro soccer in virtually one breath. I read his long and tortured interview with the Guardian of London a week or two later. His sincerity and honesty moved me and I hoped that he would have a long and happy life.
Nobody can judge the cost of anybody else’s journey but it struck me that Robbie Rogers has his own reasons for stepping out of the limelight.
Certainly coming out to the crowds that frequent Elland Road or Old Trafford wouldn’t be the same thing as a gentle disclosure across the couch from Ellen or Oprah but now we can’t have the debate. Now we can’t see if there was a Pee Wee Reese or a Brian Corcoran in the Leeds United dressing room. We can’t measure the size of the constituency on the terraces which is just sick to the teeth of the mindless hatreds spewed out in their name. We can’t count the days till the media gets over it and it ceases to be an issue. We are left to wonder how long it will be before a players sexuality is of no interest to anybody.
I worry with that situation that the clock didn’t move in any way forward. The next guy thinking of coming out to the world of soccer must surely have paused. And all the people who would have benefitted from his honesty must now wait on in limbo.
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