What Carl Nassib's Coming Out Story Means To LGBTQ Youth
Defensive lineman Carl Nassib of the Las Vegas Raiders came out on his Instagram on Monday — making him the first active NFL player to come out as gay.
The 28-year-old Pennsylvania native filmed himself talking about the importance of supporting young people who identify as LGBTQ.
“I’m going to do my best and do my part to cultivate a culture that’s accepting, that’s compassionate,” he says in the Instagram video. “And I’m going to start by donating $100,000 to the Trevor Project,” a nonprofit focused on suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth.
Trevor Project CEO and executive director Amit Paley praises Nassib’s focus on the needs of LGBTQ youth, calling it an “inspiring” and “meaningful” moment for the community.
The immediate outpouring of support for Nassib after the football player posted his announcement shows how progress has been made over the years, Paley says. It hasn’t always been this way, and there’s a lot of work left still to be done, he notes.
In the 1990s, Paley says he witnessed the widespread backlash against LGBTQ role models such as Ellen DeGeneres, who faced career-ruining scrutiny for a period of time.
And just a few short years ago, all-American defensive lineman Michael Sam, who announced he was gay in 2014 before being chosen by the St. Louis Rams, was met with mixed reactions. Sam stepped back from football only a year after the draft, citing a toll on his mental health after he publicly came out.
While Paley says some societal shifts have largely embraced acceptance and support for LGBTQ people, that’s “not uniformly true” among many other parts of society — especially when it comes to all identities under the LGBTQ umbrella, such as transgender and non-binary people.
Multiple states have passed sweeping anti-trans legislation, targeting health care, sports, restroom access and more. And even though the year is only half way through, the Human Rights Campaign named 2021 as “the worst year for anti-LGBTQ legislation in recent history.”
While Pride Month and Nassib’s coming out should be celebrated, Paley says people need to recognize how much progress still needs to be made.
Nassib’s donation of $100,000 will have a “huge impact” on the “living-saving” programs that The Trevor Project organizes, he says.
It’s especially impactful after the pandemic, which cut off many LGBTQ young people from sources of support. The organization’s recent national survey on mental health found that 42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in 2020. That includes more than half of transgender and nonbinary young people.
“We’ve had many LGBTQ young people who’ve been trapped in homes with families that are unsupportive or in some cases physically and emotionally abusive,” he says. “And we’ve had all these political attacks on LGBTQ young people.”
In his video, Nassib expressed hope that “one day, videos like this and the whole coming out process are just not necessary.” Paley and The Trevor Project team share the same vision for a future where LGBTQ youth being true to themselves isn’t a headline.
“I believe in the arc of the moral universe bending toward justice,” he says. “And I think one day we can hopefully get there where announcements like this are not news at all.”
If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting 741741.
This article was originally published on WBUR.org.
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