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NFL’s First Openly Gay Active Player Shows Signs of Progress

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Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib came out as gay this week, saying representation and visibility are important. (Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

By Kaia Zimmerman

Carl Nassib, Linebacker and Defensive End for the Las Vegas Raiders, recently took to Instagram to announce he is gay, making him the first person on an NFL active roster to come out as gay.

“Hey everyone, happy pride month,” Nassib said on Instagram. “Right now, I am sitting in a moment of gratitude and relief. Sadly, I have agonized over this moment for the last 15 years. Only until recently, thanks to my family and friends, especially Connor, Carson, and Francis, did it seem possible for me to say publicly and proudly that I am gay.”

One of the points Nassib made in his post, was that a lot of teens don’t feel accepted and loved enough to come out, which can lead to depression and suicide. Nassib mentioned the Trevor Project, as well as announcing he had donated $100,000 to the nonprofit. Following Nassib’s post, the NFL announced that they stand with Nassib and will match his donation. The Trevor Project is a non-profit organization that focuses on suicide prevention of LGBTQ youth.

“Studies have shown that all it takes is one accepting adult to decrease the risk of an LGBTQ kid committing suicide by 40%,” Nassib said.

Nassib’s story hits very close to home for me as I am gay. I have the most accepting mother in the world who I am so grateful for. Without her support through this, I would have never gotten to the great place I am today. I have also had my amazing girlfriend, who was the first person I came out to, and she helped me with acceptance. I wouldn’t be where I am today without her by my side.

While I’ve experienced acceptance, I have also had some adults in my life not be accepting, and that hurts more than I ever expected it to. When I came out to those adults who weren’t accepting, it was one of the scariest moments in my life. The fact that I had to be scared to share who I was, broke my heart.

Nassib’s coming out story made national headlines, but there are kids facing the same situation in their households, schools and everyday places. I hope for future generations that coming out won’t be a huge deal. When I came out, I was terrified, and I couldn’t even get the words out. I had a lot of shame for just being who I am, unnecessarily.

LGBTQ people are taught to be ashamed of themselves, and told they will go to hell, but for what, for being happy? Since coming out, I have never been happier. So why do people care so much about something that only affects me? My sexuality is not up for debate, but for some reason, there are unaccepting people who believe they get to have a say in my life and my happiness.

I am not saying everyone has to fly a rainbow flag every year in June. What I am saying is respect us, and know that we have gone through so much to get to where we are standing today. I hope that kids in the future won’t have to go through the pain so many LGBTQ people go through while coming to terms with their sexuality, gender identity, and coming out.

To parents (and other influential adults), if your child comes out to you, please be patient, and listen to what they have to say. They have probably been holding this in for so long and have had to hide who they are because the world tells them they need to.

To those who are part of the LGBTQ community, know you are loved and accepted in this world, and that it will get better. Two years ago I was depressed, and hated who I was. Now, I am fully out and in a great relationship with someone who makes me the happiest I have ever been. There is no pressure to come out, and you need to take this at your own pace. Know there are accepting people out there who will love you no matter what.

I can’t express how grateful I am to Nassib for his courage to come out. I hope he knows how much of an impact he is having on so many kids who are afraid to tell the world who they are.

Nassib coming out is particularly important for younger male athletes to see that it is okay to be a part of the community and also be an athlete. It is often not accepted when a male athlete comes out as gay, so to watch him come out, and to see his teammates, his team, and the NFL establishment support him, shows how far we have come. But the fact that his announcement made national headlines proves we still have a long way to go.

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