Robbie Rogers Continues to Break Ground
But what about womens’ roles?
When Jason Collins came out, there were signs that his announcement might have been the drop that precipitated the flood. And on Sunday evening, the rumors regarding Robbie Rogers, who had in fact already came out of the closet, but wasn't actively playing in the MLS, became reality.
Robbie Rogers became the first openly out male athlete to compete in a major league sporting event.
This is a big deal and it's a cause for celebration for those who have fought for equal rights for all. However, there are two rather important caveats that should be noted. Firstly, after the heap of press that Collins received for his announcement, there were many stories about Glenn Burke—a man whom I knew nothing about but seemed to break open the gendered-orientation barrier much earlier than it was ready to fall. As a result of his bold, out stance, Burke was rewarded with … silence. The piece in the Atlantic details how people on his team and in the media went out of their way to collectively ignore a perspective that it seems the world was not ready for.
Secondly, the LGBT community may be united in fighting for equal rights regardless of gender or sexual identity, but it's crystal clear that the American public is nowhere near that level. This is illuminated by looking at the list of openly out female athletes who have already competed. The WNBA is replete with shining examples such as Seimone Augustus, Sue Wicks, Michelle Van Gorp, Sheryl Swoopes, Amber Harris, Jessica Adair, Chamique Holdsclaw and, most recently, number one draft pick, Brittney Griner. The women's national team, successful on the pitch, has also notched more than its fair share of barrier-breakers: Lori Lindsey, Megan Rapinoe and Natasha Kai, amongst others.
The current crop of women who are openly out and playing in major league sports also ignores such ground-breakers as Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova. All of which serves to set up the question: If we as a society are so far ahead, so well-enlightened, as Collins and Rogers' bold moves make it seem, why are we ignoring at least half of the equation?
Part of that answer has to do less with sexuality and more with our gender biases in general. It's hard to imagine that more people know Hillary Clinton served a vital role in President Obama's previous Cabinet as Secretary of State than are aware of her based on the Texts From Hillary meme.
The line of thinking here, of course, is not to diminish Rogers or Collins' bravery, nor their important place in advancing the cause of equality in sports. It is, however, worthwhile to acknowledge that others have been fighting the same fight for much, much longer. Undoubtedly, everyone engaged with this struggle welcomes all the support they receive.