Like most superstars, Michael Sam's own dream of becoming an NFL player seemed bigger than just himself. It seemed like it was the collective dream of countless people in the LGBT community who longed to see one of our own break down the long held barriers of homophobia and effimiphobia in the NFL and finally get signed to an NFL team.
And it seemed like that dream finally came true this year when Sam, who although being named the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year in college, was the 249th draft pick when he was selected by the St. Louis Rams.
But that hope was dashed just weeks later when he was dropped from the team during the final round of cuts after an intense media blitz about the impact of having Sam in the NFL.
it finally seemed like Sam had caught a second break when the defense-starved Dallas Cowboys quickly scooped him up and added him to their 10-man practice squad with the hope that he'd eventually make it onto their 53-man team. But, once again, hopes and dreams were dashed yesterday when the Cowboys revealed that they'd waived Sam from their practice squad after just seven weeks. Instead, the Cowboys decided to sign linebacker Troy Baker.
Watching someone reach for their dreams is always a magical thing, especially when it compels you to attach your hope to their star. It's even more special when watching a dream come true turns into a groundbreaking moment.
As a black gay man, watching Sam ascend to the world of the NFL seemed like I was watching history being made as another black gay man broke the glass ceiling and was finally finding success in the mainstream sports limelight. I'm not even a football fan, hell most sports outside of gymnastics just don't intrigue me, but I knew how important his success was to our community and to the progress of our society when it comes to gender and sexuality.
And now, watching him get cut for a second time feels like I'm back at square one, watching the same cycle of my people being forced out of the mainstream and back into the shadows plays out all over again.
It's hard not to feel a sense of semi-expected defeat and wonder how long it will be before I see another openly black gay man buck the system and strive for more. How many of my LGBT brothers and sisters saw this as a tragic confirmation that they should stay in the closet and fly low instead of trying to fly as high as possible in life? How long do I have to continue to wait before I see that it is indeed possible for one of us to be accepted in any arena by the rest of the world?
For the rest of the world, Sam's cut may just seem like another unimportant NFL call, but for many in the LGBT community, his success and his failure carry the weight of our hopes and fears and dreams, and we're waiting through him for a signal from the rest of the world that it's finally okay to be ourselves.
Logically speaking, it's never really wise to look outside of yourself for validation, and clearly it may never come from the outside world. But when you're community has historically been oppressed and made invisible, it makes a hell of a difference to see one your own finally "make it."
And though Sam still hasn't made it yet, perhaps what's important here is not just see the cut, but to see how far Sam has come from a closeted college football star to being a proud openly gay black athlete sharing his story, his craft and his love with the world and getting praised for it, which is something the world definitely wasn't ready for 50, 20 or even 10 years ago.
In Sam I found a hero in the world of sports, and that allowed me to be a hero in my own world and know with even greater certainty that I can be my complete self even when I'm amongst others outside of my community -- or even when I'm the only one.
Thankfully, it's hard to kill a hero's spirit and Sam certainly hasn't lost his because he's vowed to continue to fight for his dream to join the NFL.
And as long as Sam is willing to keep dreaming, then I am as well. And I'll continue to put my hope and faith in him because regardless of the fact that the NFL may not be that big of a deal to me (Again, sports just isn't my thing), Sam and his dream mean more to me than pig skins and helmets. His dreams are my possibilities and I want to know that it's possible and real to be free in any arena.
Freelance Journalist, storyteller and blogger for 50 Shades of BLACK