Gay Athletes and the Generational Divide

Different reactions to Jason Collins' and Brittney Griner's sexuality aren't just about masculinity.

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For his part, Collins said that fellow gay athlete Robbie Rogers, a 25-year-old soccer player, phoned him to say, "It feels a little weird to congratulate you for being honest."

More than a decade separates Collins' and Griner's professional basketball careers. When the veteran Collins graduated from high school, then-President Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act into law. Just weeks before Griner became the WNBA's No. 1 draft pick, thousands gathered outside the Supreme Court to protest the Defense of Marriage Act.

For Griner, living her truth seems a simple task -- as natural as lacing up a pair of sneakers before a big game. The 6-foot-8 soon-to-be star exudes a confidence that Collins, at 34, is just now stepping into after 12 seasons. That their coming-out parties were vastly different isn't just a reflection of the stereotypes surrounding masculinity, sexuality and sports (though that is part of it) but a tectonic shift in cultural norms.

Perhaps in another decade we'll be past not only the novelty but the necessity of "the firsts," but until then, someone has to put that metaphorical number on their back and play the game.

Helena Andrews is a contributing editor at The Root and author of Bitch Is the New Black, a memoir in essays. Follow her on Twitter.

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