Its impact has been massive.
“Carl’s announcement is important for LGBTQ young people who have not been able to see themselves in athletics,” Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David said. “His announcement is also important because we have so many young LGBTQ people who attempt suicide, who are thrown out of their homes, who are denied their very existence by legislators across the country.”
While there’s still a lot more progress to be made, LGBTQ advocates say this moment — and its far-reaching impacts — is worth celebrating.
Why this matters
In his video, Nassib said that while he’s generally a private person, he opted to share that he’s gay because, he said, “representation and visibility are so important.”
That kind of visibility not only helps change the perceptions of fans and youth who are for the first time seeing an out successful football player, according to Ellis, but it also helps build acceptance within the larger population — including among relatives of LGBTQ people.
“So (LGBTQ youth’s) parents will potentially be more accepting because they might be a fan of this team, and say ‘Oh my goodness, Carl is just like everybody else,'” said Ellis. “It demystifies who LGBTQ people are and it makes the world more accepting.”
“Coming out is not for the world,” Willingham-Jaggers said. “It’s for the people who are in the closet, so they can see, ‘Look, look at this. I’m coming out, I’m telling people who I am, I’m doing the thing that feels so scary — which is risking rejection, which is risking, unfortunately, violence and being ostracized and pushed out.'”
“He’s got a really big profile and a really big microphone, so thank goodness that he came out and thank goodness that he’s chosen to be an activist in this way, really for the young people and the people of all ages who are still in the closet and who haven’t yet found the ability or found the safety or found the courage to come out.”
‘What he has done will absolutely save lives’
“When you are told by a member of your family that you don’t matter, when you are told by a member of your family that you have to leave your house, when you are told that ‘I wish you didn’t exist’ by a member of your family, or a member of your elected body that’s supported to be representing your interests, it has an impact on your psyche,” David, with the Human Rights Campaign, said.
“What (Nassib) has done is he has recorded a video that any young person can watch and see validation,” David added. “And we cannot underestimate the power that that has for young LGBTQ people who have been devalued for such a long time. So what he has done will absolutely save lives.”
In the day following Nassib’s announcement, the Trevor Project told CNN it saw daily online donations shoot up by 50% — some of which were accompanied by notes referencing the athlete. The organization’s website saw a 350% jump in traffic.
“We’re just incredibly grateful to Carl for bringing attention to LGBTQ young people and the challenges that they face and the work that the Trevor Project does,” Amit Paley, the organization’s CEO and executive director said. “I think a lot of people are hearing the story and they’re feeling inspired by him living his truth and they’re wanting to contribute.”
Still a lot of progress to be made, advocates say
While it’s important to acknowledge the positive impact of Nassib’s announcement, advocates say bills that have been introduced across the United States this year can send a very different message to young LGBTQ people.
“These anti-LGBTQ bills that we’ve seen across the country … they are a danger to all kids because they show kids that they, especially LGBTQ kids, that they don’t matter, that they need to be legislated against and that their lives are not as important and that they should be targeted by their government,” Ellis, with GLAAD, said. “So Carl coming out is especially, with all these anti-trans bills in sports, is a really big deal.”
But the road to progress takes everyone, Ellis said — and it starts by individual actions, such as speaking up when something is unjust, or simply offering support.
The legislation, which the US House passed earlier this year, would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to protect people from being discriminated based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing and other services as well as access to public accommodations such as restaurants. It’s a measure advocates say is long overdue.
“That is a great place where we could use allyship from people across the country,” Ellis said. “This piece of legislation will ensure that we have equal rights.”