Brian Sims’ face has graced the cover of ESPN; he is a Pennsylvania lawmaker, a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and a former captain of his college football team. He is also openly gay.
Invited by ODU Athletics, the LGBT community and other campus-wide organizations, Brian Sims spoke to a full audience Thursday about coming out. Living openly gay not only taught him about himself, but taught him about others as well.
For Sims, coming out was not planned. He admitted it as an offhand remark to the quarterback and captain of Bloomsburg University’s football team. The repercussions that followed, “were almost all positive, throughout my entire life,” he said during his guest lecture in the North Cafeteria. His team of more than 100 people each approached him individually with their support and stood by his side wherever he went.
Now 35, Sims has accomplished many LGBT first’s as well as received many LGBT affiliated honors. The most notable include being the first openly gay Pennsylvania lawmaker and representative for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. His honors include being named one of the Top 25 LGBT Speakers and Top 40 Most Influential LGBT People Under 40. ESPN, The Washington Post and OutSports.com have profiled him.
It all started nine years after he graduated from college and was approached by OutSports.com to be featured on their website. The story detailed his life as a dedicated high school and college athlete and his coming out story. The profile, which included Sims personal email address at the end, was immensely popular. He immediately began receiving emails from parents, coaches and young athletes who could all relate to his experience.
“I received one email every seven minutes for four months… and decided to respond to every single one of them,” he recalled.
The emails, which rarely included hate mail but people looking for advice, made a huge impact on him. He began studying psychology and specializing in LGBT issues so that he could help and properly answer the questions of people seeking answers. He now tours campuses nationwide to tell his story.
Sims remained sitting during his lecture, speaking in a personable and easygoing manner that was indicative of his acute familiarity with talking openly to strangers.
His knowledge of psychology and his career as a policy attorney blended together as he shared surprising information with the audience. He started with the demographics of his immediate audience, which ranges from 18-30.
“This demographic is usually different, but you are all more different than this demographic has ever been at any other time in history,” he said.
By this, he meant this group is more progressive and explained that it was because of our easy access to information. LGBT rights have come further in 25 years than the civil rights movement advanced in 60.
“60 percent of you have a close friend or family member who is gay and 80 percent of you support gay rights,” He said.
Sims used these figures to explain that the 18-30 generation is much more supportive of LGBT rights than they may think.
Sims had little to say about the haters, particularly because he rarely encountered them, he said. And when there is someone who wants to openly bash on the LGBT community, “I give them a microphone,” he said, “Negative speech tends to enlist more allies from an audience.”
To learn more about Brian Sims and his story, visit his website.
By: Allison Terres