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!

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Comments

  1. paulmbanks says

    These stories are amazing and inspirational! The Olympic swimmer anecdote is especially fascinating.

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