This spring, longtime NBA player Jason Collins became the first man to come out as gay while playing a major professional sport in the United States. But at least one woman doesn’t think he’s earned the hero status that’s been lauded on him since the admission: his ex-girlfriend.
In an as-told-to published in Cosmopolitan this month, former WNBA player Carolyn Moos, who was engaged to Collins in 2009 before he abruptly called off the wedding, tells “her side of the story” to counteract Collins’ historic announcement. “I empathize with Jason and support him,” Moos says. “But at the same time, I remain deeply hurt by him. I wish he could have been honest with me years ago. … He's being hailed as a pioneer, but I believe true heroism is a result of being honest with yourself and with those you love.”
By her own standard, Moos is acting like a real hero by sharing the honest facts about her relationship with Collins in Cosmo. In doing so, she’s also wrestled the conversation away from the historic fight against homophobia in sports and onto her own mundane personal problems. Once, Moos says, Collins “woke me up by rubbing a rose across my face, telling me how much he believed in me.” The pair swam with dolphins on vacation and discussed having children before their breakup. “Finally,” she thought to herself when he ultimately proposed: “I was almost 30.” But a year later, he ended it.
Many people have found themselves in stereotypically romantic relationships that failed to materialize into marriage by the conclusion of their 20s. Some have come to the harsh realization that rose-filled wake-ups and dolphin swims do not guarantee eternal commitments. If Collins had been straight, he’d be dismissed as a cad. But because he’s gay, Moos is leveraging his change of heart to argue that he’s not just a bad boyfriend—he’s a shoddy activist, too.
Moos may have relevant insight to communicate about her experience as the girlfriend of a gay pro athlete. Many men and women have ended up in her position, and it’s a role that deserves greater public understanding. But what Moos is bemoaning— that Collins couldn't be honest with himself and those he loved—is actually a reminder that being gay is still highly stigmatized in many circles, rather than a stain on Collins' reputation.
At the conclusion of the piece, Moos reveals that she has recently decided to freeze her eggs in order to continue to pursue a family despite her false start with Collins. She calls the decision “empowering.” The difference is that her action gives power to Moos specifically, while Collins’ coming out lends support to all gay men and women everywhere who are still struggling against centuries of historic oppression. If Cosmo had reported its piece out rather than gone with the easy "It Happened to Me" format, it could have made Moos' story more than just about Moos. Instead, the magazine just let her talk, which doesn't help anyone. Not even Moos.