I wanted to talk about the Fearless Project which I feel is timely, because if you’re here on Mary’s blog then you probably know she just released a story called Steamroller. It touches on the subject on an athlete—the star quarterback no less—discovering his sexuality and falling in love with another guy, and what does he do then?
This sort of issue is very real, for many athletes. Your career depends on people liking you. Maybe even your safety, if you want to be sure your teammates will still look out for you the way they’re supposed to. If you’re pro, you have a short shelf-life in which you need to be able to earn as much money as you can; it’s a big thing and an understandable one to try to protect yourself.
But what about when you’re a teenager? When you have everything stretched out ahead of you. When if you come out, you’re taking a risk with people you will still have to see every day in class and at practice for the duration of the school year, maybe many multiple school years, maybe even in your neighborhood. Maybe your parents and siblings take it well, maybe they don’t. As teenagers, our identities, our confidence is still forming. It takes an awful lot of self-awareness and even more courage to come out and be public about your sexual orientation, especially if you play sports. Because this thing that depends so much on people liking you, this thing that athletes historically saved the big reveal for until retirement, is now going to follow you throughout your career.
So this amazing photographer, Jeff Sheng, has been on this decade-long quest to photograph and honor hundreds of the “out” high school and college athletes and their bravery, with a project he calls “Fearless.” He’s nearing the end of his fundraising window on Kickstarter and needs help closing the gap, and I’m trying to give him a boost in raising awareness because I’m just so damned inspired by his work. I’d love to see it get finished. He can’t seem to get a traditional publisher interested in putting the book together because he’s not doing photographing pro athletes—the project isn’t commercial enough. Those of us who write read and write gay romance, we can relate to that, right? We’ve been relegated to e-publishing and self-publishing because gay romance isn’t commercial enough for mass-market… At least, not yet.
Things are changing for the better, and I think Jeff Sheng’s Fearless project sends a positive message and has the potential to do a lot of good for a lot of young people. Not to mention, potentially changing minds in the world at large. So please do check out his Kickstarter project and consider helping out and spreading the word.