Throughout the modern history of American social movements, there are always moments that capture a people; moments that come to define a calling and a mood and the importance of the event at hand.
Off the top of my head, I think of Pee Wee Reese wrapping his arm around Jackie Robinson. I think of Elton John performing at Ryan White’s funeral. I think of a yellow ribbon at the site where Matthew Shepard was killed.
And now I think of the kiss, featured above, between Michael Sam and his boyfriend.
On surface, the news today was of Sam—the University of Missouri defensive end and, now, the NFL’s first openly gay player—being drafted by the St. Louis Rams. The talking heads immediately dove into things talking heads dig into: How will he be received by teammates? By coaches? By the media? Will it be a distraction? Can he play at the NFL level? Blah, blah, blah. For me, the biggest moment (without question) was the embrace shared by two gay men, witnessed by (I imagine) millions of Americans. It was an expression of pure joy—this hulking football star, sobbing with bliss and relief, kissing the one he loves. By now, most of us have seen gay embraces, be them on TV or movies or people in our own lives. This, however, was something different—a large, strong, powerful athlete, supposedly the definition of machismo, locking lips with someone of the same sex.
I’m sure many folks watched with disgust. They’re horrified at the thought, and think it’s awful that Sam Bradford and Chris Long and the gang will have to share a shower with Michael Sam. Those people, though, are ignorant, marginalized and (in many cases) old and close to being dead. To them, Michael Sam’s kiss was gross and immoral and Godless.
To me, it was beautiful.