The subject of Michael Sam’s reaction to being chosen in the late rounds of this year’s NFL draft has been rolling around in my head. For those of you who don’t know, Sam would be the first openly Gay player in the league, provided he makes the Rams roster. Sam watched the announcement with his boyfriend ….and then kissed him after his name was called.
That kiss led to a lot of discussion on Sports talk radio, on message boards, social media etc. Some people praised the kiss as a breakthrough…history. But a lot of what I heard tended toward being uncomfortable watching the kiss. “Why do they have to flaunt it all over the place?” “My kids are going to see this…how am I supposed to explain that?”
That discussion paired well with the end of last week’s Modern Family. The episode ended with an uncomfortable exchange between the Dad (Jay) and his gay son (Mitchell) who’s getting married. “Why do you have to make a spectacle of it?” Jay asks. Who wants to see a father/son dance? Do you throw the bouquet? and on and on and on….
Our reaction to Michael Sam’s kiss and Jay’s awkward questions about his son’s wedding seem, to me, to be the next step in this discussion we’ve been having over same-sex marriage. A lot of people profess to be supportive of same-sex marriage, well more than half of Iowans if you believe the polls. I believe those people are supportive of the idea…but we haven’t had to live it yet. The first time you see something that is out of its former context…it’s jarring to the brain. I didn’t find myself offended by Michael Sam’s kiss, but it was jarring to see. I didn’t hear Jay’s rant about his son’s wedding as being ashamed of his son…I hear a guy who’s honestly struggling with how to live with the reality of same-sex marriage in his life.
How many of the people who profess support for same-sex marriage would also admit to being uncomfortable at their first same-sex wedding? How many would know what to say to their kids if they asked about that Michael Sam video, or why their friend at school has two Mommies. I’m not sure I do, but I need to wrap my brain around it. If a majority of Iowans, or Americans for that matter, are supportive of gay men and women having the right to marry, and to be more open about their relationships in our communities, we need to get past thee first, and sometimes uncomfortable experiences.
For the people who don’t know how to get past it, I say ask. If it’s an honest question meant to avoid offending or embarrassing someone (including yourself), I think most any gay man or women would be happy to have that talk.
For the people who may be opening up publicly about their same-sex relationships these days, we all may need a little of your patience and the benefit of the doubt. If these questions and temporary discomfort are taken for signs of homophobia, this transition will be a lot more painful.
Hopefully these awkward moments will pass. Hopefully, in the not so distant future we can all experience Michael Sam’s draft day reaction as we would when any of the other names were called; as an expression of joy living a dream after a lifetime of hard work, and not some in-your-face political statement.
That’s just my take on this. As always I am happy to hear your opinions, answer your questions or take your feedback.
Have a good day,