Brian Sims, Openly Gay College Football Star Part 3

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Paul M. Banks has an exclusive and candid interview with a social trailblazer and role model to many people.
Brian Sims is a former College Football star, prominent legal professional, crusader for LGBT civil rights and inspiration to many.

For some reason, the mainstream media has yet to tell his amazing story, so I will…

Paul Banks: I understand you’ll be speaking to some athletes at Penn State University and the University of Pittsburgh soon, tell us about that…and some of the supportive letters that you’ve received from all over the world…

Brian Sims: Since the original article in OutSports ran during the last week of April, I’ve heard from probably 500 individuals in 30 countries and about 40 states. It’s truly been overwhelming and very, very humbling. I’ve heard from parents, coaches, athletes, friends and family members of LGBT folks, athletic directors, and Olympians. I can also say that every single response, every single response, has been positive.


I remember hearing from a 15 year old kid in Chicago who came out to his high school wrestling team by sending them the article. He emailed me at midnight right after sending out the email to his team and he was actually excited about what was to come.

I heard from a 78 year old Chinese man who has a grandchild who is gay and who sent the article to his extended family to show them that gay men can be masculine. It’s just been incredible. I’ve read the words “hero” and “inspiration” so many times during the last few months that I need to remind myself that all I really did was just be who I am. My teammates were the heroes and the inspiration – I just had the honor of playing alongside them.
Examples –

I just wanted to personally tell you what your story means to me, and I didn’t want to publicly post WHY it means so much, given the personal nature of my friend’s situation, but…

My best friend just realized he is gay (he’s 27), after many years of wondering why women “did nothing” for him. He just thought he was asexual and a misfit…now, he realizes he was just afraid to look at men. Once he got past the fear, he realized his strong attraction to men.

What made that story so important to me and him is that my friend is a total jock…football lover…baseball lover…and he played football his whole high school/college career. As this whole thing has unraveled, he feels out of place as a jock, and then, conversely, out of place as gay. He is just your typical meathead jock (no offense to my friend!) who has wanted to play running back his whole life…

This article showed him how there is no stereotype, for jocks or gays, and it just made him break down and cry, he was so relieved that he wasn’t alone. He is currently crying at his desk at work.

This is a really crucial time for him, obviously, and he’s very emotionally fragile (thank God he is seeing a therapist). This article just lifted him up so much, it was incredible. It hit him on so many levels, and I just can’t tell you enough that you may have almost saved his emotional health by posting that. It was exactly the right article at the right time. For all I know, you may have almost saved his psyche, if not life, by posting that. So I wanted to say thank you from the bottom of my heart.

He is also worried that he will never meet a guy with his same interests…and I think this showed him that there are many people out there JUST LIKE HIM. He isn’t ready to come out yet, but he does want to meet someone with similar interests and he never thought such a man existed.
Know that you did a really good deed! :)
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I am no doubt another one of the 100’s of emails you have received following your story on Outsports…. two things came to mind, admiration and jealousy…and a whole lot of respect.

What a great read, I really enjoyed it. It filled me with so many emotions, mostly positive. The only negative ones were directed at myself.

I came out to family and close friends in Dec 2006 and since then other people I don’t know found out. My friends tell me other people talk about it. Part of me hates that people want to talk about it, I don’t get it but then I guess that’s my doing.

I guess the reason for that is, and I don’t want to come across as a pompous, arrogant a**hole, I have a public profile down here in _____. I was a member on the _____ Swim Team for 10 years, won 4 medals at both the Atlanta and Sydney Olympics. I am often approached by magazines to do stories, to come out publicly but as I no longer swim and {am} in the public eye as much, I just figure it is nobody’s business.

I just wanted to one, ask for your advice on this… and two say thank you. You make me feel like it is ok, I love hearing these stories as it gives me strength to one day fall in love and live that fairytale!
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I stumbled upon an article about you and your experience as a gay athlete in college on the internet.   I just wanted to thank you for having the courage and strength to speak so openly and meaningfully about everything you went through.

I didn’t play sports in college because i was afraid my sexuality would become an issue.  It killed me not wrestling.   I went to ___,  graduated in 2000, and like Bloomsburg, sexual orientation wasn’t really discussed, particularly on the playing field.

I now teach and want to get back into coaching, something I miss and, unfortunately, something I stopped for fear my sexuality would come into question.    After reading the article about your experience, I think I see things a bit differently.  I do not broadcast my sexuality, nor does my partner for 5 years, also a teacher.  If questioned about it, I respond accordingly; I definitely will not hide who I am.

Long story short, you have inspired me, and in some small way have prompted me to get back into athletics.  Thank you for your bravery and I wish you the best of luck in all you do.
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Sims: About a month ago I started getting contacted by colleges asking if I would come in to speak to their students. Some want me to talk to their student-athletes, others to their coaches, and still others to their faculty. I have the benefit of bringing what I consider to be a very positive message and I’m not saddled with having to tell anyone that they’re wrong or that they need to change.

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The truth is, if you’re under 30 years old today (which these athletes all are) LGBT folks are a part of your every day life. It’s not shocking, it’s not unusual, and it’s certainly not deviant. Young people already support LGBT folks, I just get to remind them of how great they are for doing it. At best the LGBT community is only 10% of the population. 10% can’t make any of the change that we’ve seen in recent years and so we KNOW that straight people are being supportive.

For years, members of the LGBT community have looked to their friends, families, co-workers, and teammates to provide support, comfort and guidance in the “coming out” process. We’ve asked our supporters to show us their support in real, tangible ways and the LGBT community has come to its current place of political and social relevance, largely as a result of that support that we’ve received from the straight community.

It’s time that the LGBT community looked to give that same support back to those allies who have quietly stood by us, and to stand by them as they come out as supporters of the gay community. No coming out is easy, and many of us could not have done so without the words of encouragement and support that straight allies have provided. They’ve told us we’re loved, they’ve told us we’re deserving of love, and they’ve given us the tools necessary to take up this fight. Now we need to back them, as they come out in their communities and in their families as supporters of gay people and gay rights.

For many young people, growing up surrounded by LGBT political, social and media figures has been a way of life. Young people have risen to the occasion and in every county, town, and city across America, they have supported their friends and their families because to do otherwise would be un-American. Tolerance is their American value.

There may be no better example than in athletics, where machismo, toughness and “tradition” have forced our allies to go into the closet. Young athletes are no different than young musicians, young actors, and young students. They have provided the same levels of support and friendship to the LGBT community that their non-athletic counterparts have, but they stay cowed by the fear that publicly displaying their support, will subject them to the types of harassment that they’ve helped us to stand up against. I have the privilege of telling them that’s not going to happen.

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I get to stand up and thank our supporters, and try and offer them the strength they need to publicly display their support. As a gay athlete, I saw first hand how giving my teammates “permission” to support me, giving them “permission” to ignore the stereotypes about people who support LGBT folks, and giving them “permission” to be open and honest about our friendships freed them and gave them a sense of pride that they were not allowed to share before.

Success for the LGBT community is about creating alliances, identifying and supporting our allies, and showing the vast majority of Americans that the right-wing does not define us. It’s the support and love that our allies and friends have shown us that does.

We need to tell straight America that it’s alright to come out of the closest as a supporter of the LGBT community because they’ve been supporting the community for decades!

Sorry for the soap-box moment but I truly feel honored to get to share this with these athletes.

Banks: I like to think that I am doing my part for the cause here. Thank you so much for your time!

Brian Sims, Openly Gay College Football Star Part 1

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Paul M. Banks has an exclusive and candid interview with a social trailblazer and role model to many people.

Brian Sims is a former College Football star, prominent legal professional, crusader for LGBT civil rights and inspiration to many. For some reason, the mainstream media has yet to tell his amazing story, so I will…
Paul M. Banks: For those who haven’t heard your story, tell us about your experiences during your senior year on the Bloomsburg University football team- how you guys did on the field, as well as how you came out to your team.

Brian K. Sims: The 2000 season was the winningest in Bloomsburg University and PSAC ( Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference) history. We started the season 0-2 and then went on a 12 game winning streak all the way to the National Championship Game. It sounds cliché to say that the season was magical, but it was something that we all felt throughout the entire year…it was palpable. By mid-season we knew that we were good, very good, but also that we couldn’t lose a single game or we’d be out of any playoffs. We also knew that even if we did continue winning, there was still a chance we wouldn’t make the post season.

I remember when we beat Indiana University of Pennsylvania that year. I don’t believe Bloomsburg had beaten IUP in almost 15 years. It was pretty incredible. Once into the playoffs we were pretty unstoppable. We played our first two playoff games at home against teams from the mid-West and then went on the road to Cal-Davis for the Semi-finals. For some of my teammates, it was the first time they’d ever been on an airplane!

The local papers had us picked to lose by some incredible margin 60-12 or something. At half time we were down by a lot and exhausted but we came back and engineered what I also believe is one of the greatest come from behind victories in Div. II history – again it was magical…and the last game I ever won!

Banks: And how did your team respond to you coming out? Was there any change in the way they interacted with you the rest of the season?

Sims: My team’s response to me coming out remains one of the most incredible experiences of my life. You get to know a group of guys so well when you’ve shared two-a-day practices, winning seasons, and summer camp…let alone all of the camaraderie that comes from living with teammates, going to parties together, trips to the mountains together, family events, etc. I don’t know that I ever worried that I’d be hated, but I certainly worried that upsetting the dynamic that we’d worked so hard to build would simply be too much strain on the relationships.

I also knew that a team wasn’t just a collection of friends and teammates I had, but (sort of like the mob) can have its own mentality, a team can respond to things in a very different way than the players on it may respond individually. I knew there would be detractors and I feared that in a group environment, the supporters could feel uncomfortable and they may stay silent as a result.

Needless to say I was very wrong. I had the benefit of being approached by my close friends and teammates first. These guys were serious ball-players, starters on our team, and I knew instantly that how they responded would dictate how the team responded.

It was pretty incredible. Without fail, each one of them found a private time to pull me aside and talk to me about things. They all apologized for things they may have said. Most of them tried to tell me about a gay family member or gay person they knew somewhere else in their lives. They were just trying to relate in any way they could. Some of them told me secrets about themselves or their families.

They all wanted to make sure that I hadn’t spent the last few years (let alone this incredible season) fearful every day that I would be outed and kicked off the team. I remember reaching a point one night where it felt like the 100th person had pulled me aside for one of these conversations and I almost wanted to saybrian_sims_lawyer

“OK, I get it…you’re good with me being gay!” I obviously didn’t and I think I knew it was as important for me to hear it as it was for each of them to say it. I don’t know if they realized that they were all doing the same thing, but I think they each took pride in knowing that whatever else may or may not be happening, they had done their part to affirm our friendship.

Eventually it became obvious that the guys had talked about it in larger settings and I also began to realize that if there were naysayers or detractors, they had been silenced by my friends and supporters. The young guys and the non-starters looked to them to see how they would respond and learned quickly that it wasn’t going to be ok to handle things badly. To this day I still don’t know how it went over so well, but it truly did. The guys took so much pride in their support.

Banks: When do you think we’ll see an active (not retired) male athlete in one of the four major team sports (or two big revenue-producing college sports) come out? Any ideas on which city or league it could be?

Sims: I get asked this question a lot and I still don’t have a great answer. I think the personalities in basketball and football lend themselves to a strong, even arrogant gay player coming out in college and being too good not to draft. There are certainly cities where I think a gay athlete could thrive. Miami, LA, Philadelphia, NYC- I think these cities see active, athletic LGBT folks all the time and I think that a gay athlete in these markets would be a media star!

Former College Football Team Captain was Openly Gay

By Paul M. Banks

Yesterday, the California supreme court voted 6-1 to uphold the ban on gay marriage voted in by Proposition 8 last November. The decision sparked massive protest demonstration all across the country. Within this political atmosphere I learned the story of Brian Sims, a former Defensive tackle and captain of the Bloomsburg University football team who came out to his team during his senior season. Sims’ story of his team succeeding both on the field and with the concept of tolerance is profiled on the website OutSports.com


“they never heard a single negative comment about Sims’ sexuality the rest of the year. Part of that was the timing. They were in the middle of a season for which they all had high hopes, and by the time most of the team found out about Sims, they had started talking about the playoffs. After starting the season 1-2, they ran off 11 straight wins and reached the 2000 Division II National Championship game. With the preparation and frenzy surrounding the team as they inched closer to the playoffs and then started winning playoff games, the sexuality of one of the team’s most respected players was the furthest from players’ concerns.”

As teammates found out, in the locker room no one moved away from Sims. No one shied away from him. His being gay became just more fodder for locker room teasing, like someone’s fat mom. Sims said he also became the dumping ground for every question his teammates had about gay people. “Straight guys tend to be the most curious about sex, in general,” Sims said. “My team asked me everything you can possibly ask a gay guy about sex, and in the crudest terms possible.”

I wasn’t even aware of Sims’ story or even that an alternative lifestyle oriented sports site existed until I received this email, perhaps the most enlightening electronic message I’ve received all month.

“Anyway, the story reminded me of your story from the Washington Post earlier this month about openly gay athletes in sports and Sims’ story seemed right on the mark.

Given what’s going on with gay marriage, school-yard bullying, and the lack of any good sporting news these days – this should be exactly the type of story you should follow up with: Good looking, all-American college jock comes out as America is increasingly becoming more tolerant!

All I know is that this guy is the only gay football captain to EVER come out of the closet and that is absolutely the kind of sports story that the Washington Post should be all over…plus he’s heard from athletes in like 30 states and over a dozen countries!

Dave Panchetti
Chicago, Ill.

Yes, I know Dave referred to the Washington Times as the Washington Post. I get that all the time, and get a kick out of it, and also correcting people can become tiresome. Getting back to Sims, his story is phenomenal and I plan to try and get him on for an interview soon, here’s another excerpt from the Out Sports feature:

“It also helped that Sims was good. Very good. He was the captain of the team and he was a first-team all-conference player that year. While his team got beaten badly by Delta State in the national championship game, 63-34, Sims said he recorded three sacks in the game.

“By the time it happened, I was the longest-running starter on the team,” Sims said. “I had a lot of success on the football field. And I think that bought me a certain amount of leeway with this group.”

Perhaps 30 years from now they’ll make sports movies about the struggle for Gay Rights in the vein of films made today like “The Express,” “Glory Road,” and “Remember the Titans.” These depict the intersection of sports and the civil rights movement. Sims would make a great subject for a biopic. As riveting a film as “Milk” (the recent Sean Penn movie about Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected public official in America, who was assassinated along with San Francisco mayor George Moscone) was, the Sims’ movie would actually have a happy ending.

I hope the story of Brian Sims, and his teammates who openly accepted him, will inspire more athletes to come out. Beyond that, this example of Sims and the Bloomsburg University football team should send a message about the Gay rights movement to society at large in the same manner that Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers made an impact on the Civil Rights movement over 60 years ago.