Michael Sam and Me

Dennis Sanders

Dennis is the pastor of a small Protestant congregation outside St. Paul, MN and also a part-time communications consultant. A native of Michigan, you can check out his writings over on Medium and subscribe to his Substack newsletter on religion and politics called Polite Company.  Dennis lives in Minneapolis with his husband Daniel.

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26 Responses

  1. What a nice post, Dennis. Thanks for sharing it.Report

  2. Barbara says:

    Beautiful post….Report

  3. North says:

    Well said.Report

  4. Kazzy says:

    Great piece, Dennis. Thank you for sharing.

    I’m curious if you have any thoughts on the fact that the only two athletes from major American team sports to come out were both black. Obviously, it is a very small sample size, but I thought about that yesterday. I think many people expected this ground to be broken by a white person, yet we’ve now seen two black athletes (Jason Collins being the first) while still pursuing athletic careers.Report

    • Esme in reply to Kazzy says:

      Two male athletes. Several female athletes are openly gay.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Esme says:

        You’re right. Thank you for correcting.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Esme says:

        The path for women athletes was blazed much earlier, IIRC, with figures like Billie Jean King (my goodness, was it the Seventies when the public learned of her?). So young women in sports have had role models for much longer than the young men.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Esme says:

        re: BJK – It was the 80’s and it wasn’t on her own terms nor pleasant (per King herself)Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Esme says:

        Though if wikipedia is to be believed, around the same time, Navratilova came out on her own terms in an interview with Skip Bayless(!)Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Esme says:

        I would also imagine that the expectations female athletes face are different, if not almost opposite, than those that male athletes face. A common stereotype is that female athletes are lesbian. The inverse is true for males. All of that is bad and messy but it does mean the paths they are likely to take will be different.Report

      • Mo in reply to Esme says:

        I can’t imagine Navratilova’s was pleasant. Primarily because Skip Bayless was present.Report

      • veronica dire in reply to Esme says:

        Right. I don’t think you can compare sex-or-gender-non-conforming AFAB athletes with sex-or-gender-non-conforming AMAB folks.

        Look, this is a tricky topic, since masculine-presenting AFAB people get all kinds of grief. And their gender is violently policed. (“Corrective” rape is a thing.) However, I see a vast difference between how they are treated and how feminine-presenting AMAB people are treated. For instance, the murder rates tell a very clear story. It’s a horrifying story, but it is hard to come away confused.

        This is a very old conversation with much bad feeling and distrust on both sides. I think we are allies, but walking very different paths.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Esme says:

        What would make it easier to say “I’m not attracted to men” than being interviewed by Skip Bayless?Report

      • ScarletNumbers in reply to Esme says:


        You were right the first time. Women don’t play “major American team sports”.

        It is also worth noting that Jason Collins has yet to appear in a game as an openly-gay athlete, so Sam will be the first.Report

  5. James Hanley says:

    Thanks, Dennis. When I read the earlier posts I had wondered about this aspect of it., so I appreciate your willingness to answer my unasked question.Report

  6. Kazzy says:

    Ya know, a forward thinking company might want to bring back “Being like Mike.” Showcase his remarkable talent and the work ethic that helped him achieve it, mental strength, character, and courage. You’ll get some haters (what else is new?) but, damn, what a powerful message that would be.Report

  7. Zane says:

    It’s always easier for me to know what to say when I disagree with something. I’ve been trying to think of something profound to say in response, Dennis.

    This is wonderful. Thank you for writing it and posting it.Report

  8. Chris says:

    Well said.Report

  9. Michelle says:

    Beautiful piece, Dennis.Report

  10. zic says:

    Nice, Dennis. That Sam is a role model, and a role mode with tremendous courage matters a lot.

    Then there is the machismo culture that cautions all males to not be “weak.” I think that’s why so many African American gay males live life on the “downlow” keeping their sexuality hidden.

    I think this also goes to Ta-Nehisi Coates point I quoted yesterday, too, in expressing the fear that someone gay in the locker room might be willing to visit the sexual violence on men that men can imagine to visiting on women they’re sexually attracted to.

    Which makes me question the role of incarceration and the troubling horror of prison rape. I wonder if this plays into the homophobia, as well.Report

  11. Cheryl says:

    So glad he came out! Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Dennis.Report

  12. ScarletNumbers says:

    A “gay African American male” was in the news in New Jersey two years ago.

    Bruce Harris, who is the mayor of the borough of Chatham, New Jersey, was nominated by Governor Christie to the New Jersey Supreme Court in January 2012.

    His nomination was rejected by the NJ Senate Judiciary Committee 7-6 in May 2012.

    It is worth noting that this was largely a party-line vote. The 5 Republicans all voted yes, the 8 Democrats voted no 7-1.Report

    • Zac in reply to ScarletNumbers says:

      Of course, it’s also worth noting that A) Mr. Harris is a lifelong Republican, B) had zero courtroom experience prior to his nomination, and C) the ideological balance of the court was at stake. But then I suppose that would detract from your implication that liberals are the *real* homophobes, so I can see why you left that part out.Report

      • ScarletNumbers in reply to Zac says:

        I never used the word “homophobe” but it seems to me, as a Democrat, that the party only supports members of disadvantaged groups who toe the party line.Report

      • veronica dire in reply to Zac says:

        Oh man, you all don’t realize the half of it.

        See, the current Democratic party is now run by a secret alliance of catty trans women and frustrated mimes, who together are tired of gays getting all the attention. So it’s time to take them all down a peg.

        Plus we’re gonna ruin the economy just for kicks.Report

  13. Mike Dwyer says:

    THIS is why I was so glad when my friend Dennis joined the OT as a writer. Such a unique perspective from living a life that challenges a lot of cultural conventions. Thank you Dennis for this and pretty much everything you write here.

    It’s odd that Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, two white guys, probably have the best song out there challenging the attitudes of black culture with ‘Same Love’. I know a lot of blacks who need to read posts like this and hear songs like that. The black community is definitely lagging behind a bit on this subject. It’s the old Republican lament that they have such a conservative culture and yet identify with a liberal party. Not sure I agree that the GOP is a better fit for them but on this issue they line up more than I wish they did.Report