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ALGBTIC President's Message

Michael Sam, Social Change, and Inclusiveness

On Sunday, February 9th of this year, the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Year Michael Sam made the public announcement that he is gay. His announcement prior to the NFL Draft was met with immediate, supportive and positive response that was nearly universal. Numerous teammates from the University of Missouri, leadership within his university, a number of NFL players, and the head of the NFL Players Association all shared public support of Sam's choice to come out as well as emphasized his welcome amongst NFL players. The only real exception to the warm response came from anonymous coaches, scouts and general managers. Sam's case is a clear reminder that despite rapidly advancing cultural acceptance of diversity in affectional orientation, workplace bigotry continues to endure. This highlights the need for a Federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act to be passed. A large majority of Americans believe Lesbians and Gays face between "some" and "a lot" of discrimination in the workplace (Pew Research Center).

Michael Sam's choice to enter the draft openly gay does break ground by directly and publicly confronting and highlighting the ongoing existence of workplace discrimination for people of varying affectional orientation. With the rapid advance of marriage equality in the US and around the globe, it isn't shocking that a segment of our society continues to focus on how Sam's orientation will purportedly disturb "the heartbeat of the locker room", cause "distractions" for his team and even may not be "manly enough" for a football player. Sam's strong and effective play on the football field and with his team who had known of his orientation for a year negate these opinions.

Much like others who have come before... such as Jackie Robinson as the first Black Major League Baseball player; Fritz Pollard and Bobby Marshall, the first Black players in NFL football; Jason Collins as the first openly gay player in the NBA and Brittany Griner, the first openly Lesbian player of the WNBA, Michael Sam continues the tradition of breaking ground for the acceptance of diversity in sports as well as the embracing of affectional diversity in our society at large.

I see the brave, important and pioneering step that Michael Sam has taken in coming out as he recently did prior to the draft as key to highlighting an issue of the need to continue battling for equitable treatment of all people in our society. Sam's announcement comes at a time when views on affectional orientation and marriage equality have been undergoing huge changes of their own. In the past decade, 16 US states and the District of Columbia have allowed same sex marriage, including seven in 2013 alone. For the first time last year, a majority of Americans (51 percent) said they favored same-sex marriage, according to a Pew survey. As counseling professionals, we need to understand that life-contexts are key variables in the ethical treatment of all those we serve. It is therefore imperative that all counselors stand for equitable access to rights and privileges of people of all affectional orientations.

Further, as counseling professionals, it is our ethical duty to maintain the focus of our energies on what is in the best interest of our clients and those in their communities. Our field is rooted in a wellness perspective, where we focus primarily on the holistic needs of those we serve working with them towards goals based within their culture and context. This requires counselors to take an inclusive stance in our work as opposed to one that is exclusive.

Finally, on a different note, I want to take a brief moment to thank the ALGBTIC Board members, committee and taskforce members for all the wonderful work that they have been doing throughout this year. I am particularly excited about the activities coming up at ACA (announced on the newsletter as well as our listserv), including the 2nd annual Rainbow 5K Run and 1 Mile Walk, as well as the upcoming inaugural ALGBTIC Conference in New Orleans this fall. There are also many who do important work quietly behind the scenes, such as our wonderful newsletter editors, those working on bylaw adjustments, developing a Policy and Procedures Manual, developing a strong ally movement within our circles, and those taking action to defend those we serve against exclusionary laws and regulations around the globe. I am honored to serve among you all and look forward to seeing those who can make it to Honolulu.

Mahalo nui loa,

Hugh C. Crethar
ALGBTIC President
Associate Professor and Jacques Flannery Community Counseling Endowed Professor
Counseling Program Coordinator (CACREP Accredited)
School of Applied Health & Educational Psychology
College of Education
Oklahoma State University
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