(The Root) — Last April, NBA veteran Jason Collins publicly announced that he was gay in what many supporters — myself and President Barack Obama included — heralded as a courageous leap in the right direction. Coming from the first openly gay male athlete on a major professional team, Collins’ deeply personal essay in Sports Illustrated detailing his “double life” was nothing short of trailblazing.
But buried underneath all his well-deserved applause was another important story, a story that runs parallel to Collins’ and other closeted adults’ private sagas — that of those who believed the mask.
Carolyn Moos was in a long-term relationship with Collins for eight years. The two got engaged in 2008, and just one month before their wedding, Collins called the whole thing off without explanation. Moos paints the picture of the man she knew in a story for Cosmopolitan magazine entitled, “Jason Collins Is My Ex-Fiancé and I Had No Idea He Was Gay.”
The juxtaposition between Collins’ essay in Sports Illustrated and Moos’ first-person retelling of their life together is a bit jarring. She gets only a brief nod in Collins’ original piece.
In that SI article, Collins wrote, “When I was younger, I dated women. I even got engaged. I thought I had to live a certain way. I thought I needed to marry a woman and raise kids with her. I kept telling myself the sky was red, but I always knew it was blue.” This is the only time he alludes to Moos, the woman he’d known since college and to whom he spent nearly a decade essentially lying.
I was all set to defend Collins here. His story didn’t have to include Moos because by definition it was his own. Collins even admits in his essay that “It takes an enormous amount of energy to guard such a big secret. I’ve endured years of misery and gone to enormous lengths to live a lie.” Struggling with one’s personal truth, especially in a world where that truth is vilified by society and the state, is a daily battle that most of us can hardly imagine. The body count, the butcher’s bill, is inevitable. People are going to get hurt.
But is the pain of living a lie somehow more poignant than that of being forced into one?
“When I couldn’t get answers from Jason on what had gone wrong, I questioned myself and what I could have done better or differently,” said Moos. “I should have been questioning him, but I didn’t think to do so at all.”