Sheryl Swoopes, who came out as a lesbian to much fanfare in 2005, is now engaged to marry a man. Mechelle Voepel of ESPN uncovers the news and says she first learned of Swoopes' new relationship status last autumn. She writes in a recent piece on Swoopes turning 40:
Yet when Swoopes' agent mentioned to me last fall that Swoopes was "in a different situation" now, it wasn't difficult for me to guess what she was referring to. Swoopes was no longer in a relationship with a woman. She was in a relationship with a man whom she'd known for some time.
Swoopes didn't seem to want to have -- for lack of a better way to put it -- a "coming out as straight again" interview. She wasn't renouncing homosexuality or saying she wished she hadn't said what she did in 2005. But the fact remained that she was no longer in a same-sex relationship.
A lot of people are going to be confused by this, but it shouldn't come as a huge surprise. Even in 2005, Swoopes seemed uncomfortable labeling herself a lesbian after being married to a man and having a child with him. Some will use this to "prove" that being gay is just a choice. I already got this email from a lovely woman named Cherri Moore:
It is amazing to me that after all the HOOPLA surrounding Sheryl Swoopes "coming out" .... her recent marriage to a MAN get's virtually no attention. Is she now UN-GAY?... Why is the fact that this woman went through a period of "trial" in her life NOT getting any press? It is obvious that the woman just like every other gay or lesbian man or woman in the world had at that time made a CHOICE to entertain the idea of being with someone of the same gender. Sheryl is just more proof that no one is born gay, it is a learned behavior brought on by experiences and circumstances in ones life. I am very happy for Sheryl - but the "gay agenda" driven PRESS can bite it. It is MORE than obvious the press is nothing but a bunch of HYPOCRITES more than willing to make a HUGE story out of someone supposedly being gay but having absolutely NOTHING to say when that same individual realizes it was NOTHING more than just a phase in their lives.
When Swoopes came out I wrote a column applauding her honesty not just about being attracted to women, but also because she made a statement very unpopular with the gays: She didn't feel her sexual orientation was determined at birth. I wrote at the time:
What some may be worried about are Swoopes' quotes that position herself squarely on one side of the nature versus nurture argument. "Do I think I was born this way? No," she tells ESPN the Magazine. "And that's probably confusing to some, because I know a lot of people believe that you are."
To me, it's the sensible conclusion of someone who was married and obviously feels that love and marriage were as valid as her relationship now. Frankly, I don't think I was born this way, either. And I'm thrilled to see another gay person say the same thing.
Neither she nor I said anyone else was or was not born gay. This is simply our truth (and to my partner, don't worry, I won't be dating women anytime soon). I certainly don't feel being gay is a choice, either. All I know is when I was 9 I felt attracted to young girls in my class. By the time I was in high school, I was attracted to men. That's my personal truth.
That's what Sheryl is following now: Her truth. She was so in love with her female partner six years ago that she decided to make a huge splash and become a spokesperson for a lesbian travel company. That relationship obviously didn't work, and she now found herself in love with a man.
So Swoopes isn't a lesbian. Big deal. She's clearly bisexual: You don't enter long-term relationships with both genders if you're 100% straight.
But whatever label we could try to put on Swoopes is irrelevant. She is still a great champion on the court, and she is still a great role model for everyone struggling with their sexuality. The fact that Swoopes has been willing to go on the journey her mind and body have taken her on speaks well of her character, and I wish her the best on her journey.