This weekend, a whole bunch of LGBT folk exhaled sighs of relief and then celebrated their butts off. Michael Sam, the former college football player who came out before the NFL draft, was selected by the St. Louis Rams in the 7th round. Congratulations, St. Louis Rams. You may no longer be the Greatest Show on Turf, but you just gained a lot of fans. Video of Sam’s moving reaction to the news went viral and folks responded accordingly. A bunch of NFL boneheads and just regular boneheads wanted the Twitterverse to know that they didn’t appreciate the NFL, ESPN, or whomever showing Sam kiss his boyfriend after getting the news. Though that is to be expected, that’s not why I’m writing.
Before I go any further, I just want to reiterate that I in no way underestimate the bravery it took for Sheryl Swoopes, Esera Tuaolo, John Amechi, Jason Collins, Michael Sam, Derrick Gordon, and the countless other athletes in major and minor sports to come out and declare a sexual orientation. I also want to note that, although I think as a “movement” it is comparatively insignificant, anyone who wants to be married should be able to do so. Same-gender marriage should and will be a reality. And the world will still spin. What is curious to me, though, is the alacrity with which the comings out of Gordon and Sam in particular have been subsumed by a movement that is largely white and moneyed.
I cared less about the kiss and more about the fact that Michael Sam was starring in a Visa commercial before he was even drafted. I cared less about what Derrick Gordon had to say about his teammates’ reactions, and more about the fact that it is strangely fitting that he made his “debut” at the GLAAD Awards with his boyfriend who is white and much older than Gordon. I am not usually alarmed at age difference, frankly. Those of us who have been involved in same-gender relationships know that age sometimes doesn’t work the same in our world as it does in others. That said, Gordon’s coupling with actor Gerald McCullough, who is 25 years older than Gordon, and their showing up at the GLAAD Awards shows, I think, that the reason why we care about Gordon and Sam is because their stories have been tethered to a “movement” that will largely enhance the lives of people who aren’t really all that marginalized.
Listen. I get it. Love is love. Whatever. But riddle me this: Do we care about Derrick Gordon if his boyfriend is a black teammate? Does the NFL or ESPN endeavor to show us Michael Sam’s reaction if Sam’s own family was less complicated and more respectable than the white one he was surrounded by when he received the news that his dream had been realized? “The marriage equality movement” is using these young black men and their stories to benefit an agenda that really isn’t concerned about young black men. If I have to be a hater because I think that Gordon and Sam have been relegated to a pawn-like status in a larger movement that cares very little for gay black folks, then I’ll be that hater.
I really am happy for these men if they are living their best lives or something else Oprah would say. I really am. But I’d be a liar if I didn’t say that such happiness is tempered by the fact that they are now minor spokespersons for organizations and movements that really don’t care about them or the folks that their current agenda ignores, because being able to be in the hospital for your loved one is somehow more important than just having access to healthcare whether or not one is (gainfully) employed. And let’s be clear. Love isn’t love. Love has never been love. And it surely isn’t in this case. Unless, of course, said love can be tethered to an agenda that is white and moneyed. In that case, love can be love. But it’s not a revolutionary act.
So, Michael Sam and Derrick Gordon, I’m happy for you and I’ma let you finish, but…well, nevermind. I hope you get that Wanda Sykes money. And that America comes to love you in the way that they love Robin Roberts. Because besides the movement you all have come to represent, the only folks with your background who may benefit from any of this is y’all.