LGBT Rights To Come with Exposure

Brian Sims played football for the Huskies during the team's sole trip to the NCAA National title game; photo courtesy of outsports.com

Brian Sims, a BU alumnus ‘01 and former Husky football player, spoke about his experience with ‘coming-out’ to his team at the Second Annual Pennsylvania Collegiate Conference on Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) Leadership at the keynote speech on Saturday, Oct. 3, in the Kehr Union Ballroom.

Sims was part of the football team of 2000 that made it to the school’s only NCAA D-II Football National Championship game.  In the middle of the season he also became the first openly gay college football captain in NCAA history.  The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) advocate and current Philadelphia Bar Association Attorney-at-Law, told an audience of mixed GSA leaders from other Pennsylvania universities, how he managed to unveil his sexual orientation, while playing defensive tackle as an All-American for the team.

He spoke about how each one of teammates spoke to him privately and discussed his situation respectfully.  Sims expressed appreciation in the fact that his teammates were accepting and supportive of him.  “I have a rather unique story, part of it is that I really never had any anti-gay backlash,” Sims said.

One way in which Sims became a visible role model for others in the LGBT community was through the media.  Outsports.com contacted Sims earlier this year and interviewed him on his experience during his ‘coming-out’ season.  Sims did not expect the article to make such a deep impact on struggling LGBT individuals and other readers.

After the release of the article, Sims remembered that during the first 10-14 days, he received an email every 10 minutes.  “I figured out what happened really quickly,” Sims said, “they put my personal email address right in the article,” he said.  “But, when I stopped counting, I heard from just under a thousand people and 38 countries and 42 states, little bit of everywhere and I was blown away by it.”

Sims heard success stories that came out of his story.  One positive reaction was from a 15-year-old high school student, who was a wrestler.  The student told Sims how he was dealing with similar identity issues as Sims while he was going through the ‘coming-out’ process.  The student respected the way Sims told his teammates, so highly that the boy forwarded the article to his team as a sign of his own ‘coming-out.’

“In his way of telling me that I was a hero to him, and obviously a hero to me,” said Sims, “I will talk about this kid in everyone of these speeches that I do.”

Brian Sims is currently an Attorney-at-Law for the Philadelphia Bar Association and advocates for LGBT rights, photo courtesy of thesportsbank.net
Brian Sims is currently an Attorney-at-Law for the Philadelphia Bar Association and advocates for LGBT rights, photo courtesy of thesportsbank.net

Since it happened eight years ago, Sims was surprised by all the responses he was getting about his choice to reveal his orientation.  “I heard from everyone,” Sims said of the feedback from his article.  “I heard from coaches, athletes, a lot of parents, and a lot Olympians.  I didn’t hear from any professional athletes, I get asked that a lot, I didn’t hear from a single current pro athlete or all those former pro athletes.”

An important aspect of Sims’s talk was directed to the members of GSA in attendance to be aware of making allies, or friendships with straight sexually oriented people.  He said that since the LGBT community is a minority, it is necessary to make a strong relationship with allies, for they create change.  Listen to this Podcast, which further explains why Sims believes the LGBT community needs to build stronger support systems with its allies.

“The more that straight people talk about gay people, good, bad or indifferent, the more tolerant straight people become,” Sims said in an interview.  “It is purely an exposure campaign.  It’s hard to hate something that you’re around, it’s hard to hate something that you understand, and it’s really easy hate something from a far.”

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