Michael Sam
Photo credit: Stacy Revere/Contributor/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

College football phenom Michael Sam just made the decision to publicly come out as gay prior to joining the ranks of the NFL. Here are the many reasons why you need to care, whether gay, straight, football fan or not.

the first openly gay
NFL player

This phenomenal young man — currently finishing out his degree at the University of Missouri — will be the first openly gay player in NFL history within just a few short months. Why should you, as a straight woman, care at all?

He bravely wrote his own story

Bravery is sexy. Unfortunately, bravery is insufficiently delineated in our culture. So many heterosexual men seem to believe that bravery is nothing more than machismo and arrogance. Bravery, though, is the ability to act with boldness and fearlessness in the face of opposition. There's a good chance that Michael Sam will face discrimination and hatred due to his coming out, but he chose to come out anyway. Sam wrote his own story, even though he knows the costs are high in an NFL culture that is known for bullying and prejudice against gays. Both homosexual and heterosexual men can learn a thing or two about what real bravery means by observing Sam's choices. And the more men embrace real bravery, the more we will all benefit.

He is a role model for masculinity

The men we date grow up in a world with very thinly-defined rules for masculinity. But think about it: Would you prefer to date a man who allows his passions to die in a conventional and expected life, or would you prefer to date one who is willing to turn expectations upside down? Sam has proven that it's possible for men to go against the grain to embrace who they fully are, even if it's unexpected and sometimes even condemned. Such "rule breaking" behavior is a fabulous masculine precedent for all men to live up to, regardless of their sexuality.

He brings talk about sexuality to our living rooms

Rich conversations about sexuality are sorely missing from American living rooms, whether it's due to shyness, boredom or some other factor. When was the last time you and your boyfriend or husband had a lively discussion about sexuality, beyond just a quick discussion of mechanics? Men like Michael Sam who make a bold choice to live truthfully and respectfully about their sexuality bring important discussions directly into our living rooms, and prove that it's OK to be honest.

He makes the world a little safer for our sons

Ultimately, many straight women will have children someday. Some of these children will be boys, and some of these boys will be gay. No matter your opinion about homosexuality, it's important that our sons grow up in a world where their sexual choices don't invite bullying, hatred or condemnation. Sadly, gay youth remain popular targets for hatred and violence, but the more we as a society talk about sexuality and remove the stigma for LGBT people, the less likely prejudice will be tolerated. A high-profile role model like Sam — who is the pinnacle of "traditional" American masculinity while being truthful about his sexuality — will create additional security and hope for the young men in our care.

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