Jason Collins today became the first active NBA player to reveal his gay identity in the league’s history. And he did so on the pages of Sports Illustrated with the grace and stoicism befitting an accidental activist, which indeed is what Collins has become: a brave activist determined to combat the homophobia and hatred rife in American sports.

Not because he set out for this to be his mission. But because nobody else has done so.

I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.

I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, “I’m different.” If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.

Collins has received a tremendous amount of support today, from Bill Clinton and the White House to Kobe Bryant and other sports figures. However, predictably, he has also been the target of vicious, personal attacks.

Attacks questioning his manhood. His morality. His humanity. They are attacks I have chosen not to reproduce here, not to promote. You know their tenor. You know their trope.

You know the fundamentalist rage that is brewing today, the self-proclaimed religious amongst us who hide their homophobic prejudices under the veil of Biblical doctrine, under the veil of God’s will. They can’t handle the prototypical, stereotypical man revealing himself to be gay. They can’t stomach such a world.

And so the bible-driven filth is being directed at Jason today. It’s as ugly as it is expected. However, the one difference — perhaps the most important one to consider today — is that while Jason was born to be a gay man, was bequeathed this identity, those on the religious right calling him filthy names learned their hatred.

They were not born to hate. They did not come out of the womb hating those men who deeply love other men. They were taught it.

And, in all honesty, only someone taught to hate could possibly feel such hatred for Jason. Seriously. Listen to him:

I realized I needed to go public when Joe Kennedy, my old roommate at Stanford and now a Massachusetts congressman, told me he had just marched in Boston’s 2012 Gay Pride Parade. I’m seldom jealous of others, but hearing what Joe had done filled me with envy. I was proud of him for participating but angry that as a closeted gay man I couldn’t even cheer my straight friend on as a spectator. If I’d been questioned, I would have concocted half truths. What a shame to have to lie at a celebration of pride. I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore. I want to march for tolerance, acceptance and understanding. I want to take a stand and say, “Me, too.”

The recent Boston Marathon bombing reinforced the notion that I shouldn’t wait for the circumstances of my coming out to be perfect. Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully? When I told Joe a few weeks ago that I was gay, he was grateful that I trusted him. He asked me to join him in 2013. We’ll be marching on June 8.

This is a beautiful man. A beautiful man born beautiful.

Follow David Harris-Gershon on Twitter @David_EHG

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