Guest Blogger

7 Years Later: From Unsafe to So What

Filed By Guest Blogger | January 07, 2011 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: Bill Konigsberg, Boston Herald, coming out of the closet, ESPN, sportswriter, Steve Buckley

Editors' Note: Guest blogger Bill Konigsberg is the Lambda Literary Award-winning author of Out of the Pocket and a GLAAD Media Award-winning sports writer. Bill came out on the front page of ESPN.com in 2001 with his essay "Sports World Still a Struggle for Gays." The article won the GLAAD Media Award for digital journalism the following year.

Bill_Konigsberg.jpgBoston Herald sports writer Steve Buckley is finally out!

Good for you, my friend. I know how long this decision has plagued you. I know, because seven years ago, you were so on the cusp of coming out that I was in edits with ESPN.com, which had agreed to publish the story.

Then, you disappeared.

I understood, later, that you disappeared mostly because your mother, who had told you to go ahead and do the story, had gotten ill. But at the time, I saw it as more proof that for most of us making a living writing about sports, being gay was simply unsafe. It was something that could ruin a career. It was enough of a story that when a simple assistant editor at ESPN.com wrote an essay about being gay 10 years ago, it became front page news on that site.

It just hadn't been done before. And I remember how afraid I was, when I did that.

So as much as I was disappointed, I also understood. And when we finally spoke after a couple years, we were good again. I knew that your cold feet came from fear that your job might be in jeopardy. Yes, Massachusetts is a liberal state. But your readers and listeners came from where you came from. You knew that for many of them, gay was not good.

That's what strikes me the most about your coming out now. How the story has lost a lot of its impact. Seven years ago, ESPN.com agreed to do it, but if they hadn't, I believe Sports Illustrated or The New York Times might have. An openly gay man interacting on a daily basis with professional athletes was something that might warrant water cooler conversation across the country.

Seven years later, it's appearing on the front page of the Herald in Boston, mostly because you're such a beloved figure in the area. I think you'll find a whole lot of "so what" nationally, and a good deal of it locally, too. Most folks will wish you well and hope that it doesn't impact the job you do so well. And I'm guessing it won't. There may be homophobia in those locker rooms you visit, but I'm guessing most of the millionaires you cover have bigger concerns than who you sleep with.

Don't get me wrong: I think what you did today was extremely brave, and I think the fact that this isn't as newsworthy anymore is great news. The world is changing, and quickly. Soon, a professional male athlete in one of the four major team sports in America will come out while still playing. That will be big news, because it will be a first, and it will strike a huge blow to the final frontier of heterosexism in this country. Once the military goes, the sports world can't be far behind.

And then, we will have kids -- straight and gay -- idolizing a gay man because his two-out double in the ninth inning won a game. And that, unlike the pebble in the ocean that my coming out created a decade ago, and yours did today, will be a boulder falling into the sea, sending waves out to places we could never have imagined, years ago, that it would one day be okay to be gay.


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What a great story, and how gloriously un-newsworthy it is.

Every time a key figure in a particular arena comes out, I do hope for the domino effect -- that it that will be the final little tap needed, and then suddenly scores of people come out at once. Ah, well. Baby steps.

Amen, the more we leach the drama from these developments, the better. Many thanks to Bill for chiming in on this.

What a cool connection to a blip in history, Bill. I can't wait to see the day when this is never a story again.