NBA Center Jason Collins Comes Out: "I'm a 34-Year-old NBA Center. I'm Black. And I'm Gay." '

Collins has come out in a touching essay in Sports Illustrated.

Jason Collins, who played center for the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards this season,comes out in a Sports Illustrated essay:

I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay.

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. I wish I wasn't the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, "I'm different." If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand.

It's a touching essay, and Collins' story is worth reading in full. He says the impetus for his decision to come out was seeing his college roommate—Rep. Joe Kennedy—march 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. If I'd been questioned, I would have concocted half truths. What a shame to have to lie at a celebration of pride. I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore. I want to march for tolerance, acceptance and understanding. I want to take a stand and say, "Me, too."

Obviously, Collins isn't the only gay athlete. In fact, he's not the first major athlete to come out—Martina Navratilova did in tennis. But as Collins says, he's the first in a major American team sport, and his decision is yet another victory for tolerance. As President Bill Clinton, who knows Collins from Stanford, where he was a classmate of Chelsea Clinton, says:

Jason's announcement today is an important moment for professional sports and in the history of the LGBT community. It is also the straightforward statement of a good man who wants no more than what so many of us seek: to be able to be who we are; to do our work; to build families and to contribute to our communities. For so many members of the LGBT community, these simple goals remain elusive.

And with Collins' announcement, achieving those goals has gotten one step closer.

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