Don’t boycott the Olympics. That’s Robbie Rogers’ advice.
Rogers is the professional soccer player who recently came out through Facebook. He made his statement while speaking with Chelsea Handler after she remarked, “it’s a good time to be gay, don’t you think?”
The Los Angeles Galaxy player said, “I attended the Beijing Olympics and it was the best experience of my life and an experience like that shouldn’t be taken away from anyone.” He was responding to a question about Russia’s newly enacted “antipropaganda” law — passed this summer — to deter gays from attending the games.
The law punishes anyone who “promotes” homosexuality to young people.
Rogers encouraged people “to go to Russia, to be out, to be great role models.” He believes it’s “a bigger, more important symbol” than not going. He is 25, and he is part of Generation Y. He represents a fresh generation of activists with an emboldened brand of bravery built on the work of activists before him.
Generation X — my generation — came of age during the AIDS crisis. Gen Y grew up in the years gays were vehemently used as political footballs to win elections, and Gen Z – the next generation – is poised to end an ugly era of outright bigotry, with Gen X and Y by their sides.
Rogers is a hero to many and — for some — a living nightmare. He is a visible role model with courage, pride in his accomplishments, and the support of his friends, family and team. Instead of being shunned for his sexuality he found love on the other side of his journey, and he’s putting his success to use by helping others. He is an affront to the image of a degenerate that Pat Robertson needs you to believe he is.
Generations X, Y and Z elected the first black president and scoff at uneducated arguments questioning the existence of racism. We’ve redefined marriage and are altering the rules of taxes and social security. We’ll ensure women are paid the same as men for doing the same job and guarantee immigrants full access to the American Dream.
Cling to guns if you need them because we are going to make them harder to get, and we will limit the kind of weapons you can legally own. We will make it easier to vote, and make sure the people who vote are educated — not stupefied for political gain. We are masters of resolve, forming judgments free of indoctrination and confronting hypocrisy when we see it– and we have friends worldwide.
Together, generations X, Y and Z are the X-Men and the Justice League combined. We are formidable, and a few decades ago our abilities would have been considered the power of gods. With the swipe of a finger we can send a message to man as fast and as forceful as a lightning bolt. We project images to the palm of a hand, and we can watch events unfold around the world in real time, like the Olympians of myths. Just two generations ago, phones weren’t smart, images were broadcast in black and white, and yesterday’s news would have been printed tomorrow, maybe.
We have allies embedded in the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boomers. The unconditional love of our grandparents, parents and friends is an enduring value evangelicals and social conservatives cannot erode. We are making our own “better future” and it looks nothing like the one some want to “preserve.” We are a grand social experiment, and we don’t only want change, we have the proven power to make change.
Robbie Rogers is the epitome of our ambition because he is the child no one wanted to leave behind. He represents the future and knows we shouldn’t keep people from reaching their full potential just because a bunch of bigots are losing their ability to scare us away, or keep us in a closet.
To answer Chelsea Handler, yes, it is a great time to be gay. Exclusion is a dying tactic and a losing battle. We can boycott the Russians and their products if we choose, or we can assert our power to keep the Russian government from taking the Olympics away from us, and our athletes.
Tony Plakas is the CEO of Compass Community Center. He can be reached at TonyPlakas@post.harvard.edu or @tonyplakas on Twitter.