Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tolerance is a two way street

The reaction to NBA veteran Jason Collins coming out as the first openly gay athlete in major North American team sports has been predictable on a couple of levels. Almost universally, Collins is being praised for his courage, and rightly so. The traditionally macho world of male pro sports represents one of the gay community's final frontiers to full social acceptance, and the overwhelmingly positive public reaction to Collins' announcement is testimony to the dramatic change in prevailing attitudes over the past 30 years.
What's also predictable, though, is the summary dismissal of alternative opinion. ESPN writer Chris Broussard, a practising Christian, was widely mocked and ridiculed yesterday for saying he can't support Collins on religious grounds. Miami Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace took a public relations beating for saying on Twitter that with all the beautiful women in the world, he doesn't get why guys want to - in his words - mess with other guys. Wallace didn't say that he's against it or that it's wrong; just that he doesn't understand it. Never mind that science still doesn't understand it and that there's a debate within the gay community itself over whether the lifestyle is preordained or a conscious choice, the reaction to Wallace's relatively innocuous comment was sufficiently hysterical that he was compelled to delete the tweet and issue an apology.
Broussard and Wallace might not be enlightened by 21st century western world standards, but they have a right to their religious beliefs and personal opinions, as long as they're not hateful or slanderous. On an issue as morally divisive as this one, understanding and acceptance have to work both ways. Otherwise, we're left with intolerance and hypocrisy.

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