Wednesday, May 12, 2010

LGBT activist/former athlete Brian Sims visits Charlotte this week

Posted By on Wed, May 12, 2010 at 5:51 PM

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Former college football player Brian K. Sims made history in 2000 — and it wasn’t just because he brought an NCAA championship to his alma mater, Bloomsburg University.

It was because he came out as a gay man — unwittingly becoming the first openly gay football captain in NCAA history .

And, this Thursday, the history maker is coming Charlotte to help raise money for Campus Pride, a national organization based in town that works to make college campuses safe for LGBT students. Sims will be speaking at The Bar at 316, located on 316 Rensselaer Ave, starting at 8:30 p.m.

Campus Pride’s executive director, Shane Windmeyer, said Sims was picked as a speaker because he’s the type of gay man that people — especially fellow athletes — don’t see in the media.

“He represents an opportunity to highlight athletics. UNC-Charlotte is looking at bringing on a football team here soon. There are gay members who are closeted who have played for the Panthers. Brian is not only successful from the football perspective, but he is also a policy attorney in Philadelphia,” Windmeyer said. “He really defies stereotypes.”

Even Sims’ coming-out story defies stereotypes: When he told his teammates that he was gay, they didn’t turn their backs on him or treat him differently. “It was incredible,” Sims said. “It was empowering and informative. Most LGBT people have not had good coming out experiences.”

But after college, Sims hung up his jersey and went into law. (He wasn’t drafted by a professional football team, and Sims said it wasn’t because he’s gay. “I was not going to be playing pro football. I had both my knees rebuilt and I had made the decision to go to law school as a sophomore in college.”) Currently, he works on policies to protect the rights of gays and lesbians; however Sims believes that, had he been drafted into the NFL as an openly gay man, he could’ve made a bigger difference than any lawsuit he’s pursued.

“So much of what we think of now as traditional civil rights issues has been advanced by pop culture,” he said. “Jackie Roberson playing pro baseball was probably more eventful at that point in history than all the Civil Rights marches — and that’s a hard thing to say. When a male player in one of the four major sports comes out, that will have a greater impact on the traditional LGBT civil rights struggles than anything we’ve done in the last 10 to 15 years.”

“I think it was Rosanne who had the first lesbian kiss on TV and then Ellen [DeGeneres] came out,” he continued. “But to kids today, Ellen has never been anything but a lesbian on TV. That’s hugely, hugely eventful.”

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