There will never be a “gay Jackie Robinson”
For years we've heard about the mythical coming out of the "gay Jackie Robinson": The first publicly out male athlete in one of the big pro leagues. In one fell swoop he's going to change the face of professional sports and open the floodgates for other gay athletes, just like Robinson did for black players.
The problem is, the first out athlete won't be the gay Jackie Robinson. He can't be.
Robinson was a very particular man at a very particular time in history. When we talk about the "gay Jackie Robinson," I'm afraid we diminish both of those pieces. In the process, we set a measuring stick so high we inadvertently push gay pro athletes deeper in the closet.
Robinson first swung a bat in Major League Baseball in 1947. That was eight years before Rosa Parks sat in the "wrong" seat. It was 15 years before the University of Mississippi was forcibly desegregated. The Civil Rights Act wasn't signed until 1964 ... eight years after Robinson retired.