(This story was published in 2005).
Houston Comets start Sheryl Swoopes became the biggest name in American team sports to come out of the closet on October 26, 2005. LZ Granderson, a friend of Outsports, wrote Sheryl's words for ESPN the Magazine. Here are some excerpts.
"My reason for coming out now isn't to be some sort of hero. It's not something that I want to throw in people's faces. I'm just at a point in my life where I'm tired of having to pretend to be somebody I'm not.
"I'm tired of having to hide my feelings about the person I care about. About the person I love. Some people might say my coming out after just winning the MVP Award is heroic, and I understand that. And I know there are going to be some negative things said, too. But it doesn't change who I am. I can't help who I fall in love with. No one can."
"I've been married, and I have an 8-year-old son. Being with a man was what I wanted. When I got divorced in 1999, it wasn't because I'm gay. I'm three years older than my ex-husband, and I matured a lot faster than he did."
"I'm content with who I am and who I'm with. Whether people think that's right, whether they think it's wrong, I don't care. We shouldn't and can't judge each other. I am a Christian, and my biggest dilemma is when people start throwing in the whole religion thing: you're going to hell for this or that. I think that's the hardest thing for my mom to deal with, too. She's into the Bible and church, and I'm concerned about how she's going to deal with her church friends. What are they going to say? What are they going to do?"
"But I'm tired of being miserable. Not being free to be who I am, not being OK with other people knowing who I am -- it has been miserable. And it hurts. I'm a very affectionate person. Going out to the movies or dinner, seeing so-called normal couples show affection in public and knowing that I can't, that hurts. It's frustrating to keep everything inside and not be who I want to be. I'm sure life is not going to be easier for me just because I'm coming out. But at least I'll be free."
"My biggest concern is that people are going to look at my homosexuality and say to little girls -- whether they're white, black, Hispanic -- that I can't be their role model anymore.
"I don't want that to happen. Being gay has nothing to do with the three gold medals or the three MVPs or the four championships I've won. I'm still the same person. I'm still Sheryl."
"What really irritates me is when people talk about football, baseball and the NBA, you don't hear all of this talk about the gay guys playing. But when you talk about the WNBA, then it becomes an issue. Sexuality and gender don't change anyone's performance on the court."