Michael Sam on confronting racism from within the gay community and how a frenzy of media interest changed his life.
BY VICTOR MELAMED
Michael Sam might have faced a backlash from middle America when he came out to a frenzy of media interest in 2014, but in the latest issue of the U.K based magazine Attitude the football star reveals how shocked he was to be confronted with racism from within the gay community itself after taking the plunge publicly.
The 26-year-old features across an exclusive 10-page spread in Attitude’s May Issue, in which he discusses everything from his experience growing up gay as a Jehovah’s Witness to the racism he’s been subjected to on social media from other gay men.
“I will say this, since I came out, I did not realize how much racism there actually is in the gay community,” he tells Attitude.
“It’s terrible. People have told me I’m not gay enough, people have told me I’m not black enough. I don’t know what that means. You want to be accepted by other people but you don’t even accept someone just because of the color of their skin? I just don’t understand that at all.”
The former NFL star continues: “How are you saying that, ‘oh, I want people to accept me because I’m gay but I don’t accept you because you’re black, or because you’re white or because you’re Asian’. I don’t understand that.
It baffles me how screwed up society is. Because where I’m from. we don’t judge a person by the color of their skin, we judge them by the character of their heart.
There are a lot of people whose hearts are cold and that’s sad.”
Sam said that in his experience the black community is generally more accepting of his homosexuality, and that his most vocal critics have members of the religious community.
“People tell me they have family members who are gay and it doesn’t freak them out, and no black person ever freaked out at me, ‘Oh, you’re gay.’ None.”
Looking back at his coming out journey, Sam says that he has no regrets.
“I was so naive when I came out. I wasn’t thinking about anybody else trying to be an inspiration or advocate or activist, whatever, I wasn’t trying to be anything but just to get that over with so I could stop focusing on me.
“Then I started reading things that was going around, from people: emails, letters, Tweets, messages, everything – they were more positive than negative. ‘People said oh my god I just can’t believe you had the courage to do that’. I said, ‘I’m just living my life.’”
Check out Sam’s full shoot and interview in the new issue of Attitude, available to download now at pocketmags.com/attitude.