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Sims speaks at diversity lecture

Anna Boarini | Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Though he garnered All-American honors as a defensive lineman at Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania, Brian Sims is better known for his unique story of leadership than his achievements on the field.

Sims, the only openly gay man to serve as football captain in NCAA history, spoke Monday in Geddes Hall for the Progressive Student Alliance’s “Rally for Diversity.”

Sims, now a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender [LGBT] rights advocacy lawyer in Philadelphia, came out to his teammates his senior year. He said his story did not receive much attention until a decade after graduation.

“Two years ago, I was working as in house counsel for the Philadelphia bar association when I got a call from a guy from outsports.com [an LGBT sports website] who wanted to do a story about my coming-out experience,” Sims said. “I told him that he was 10 years too late.”

Sims said he agreed to the story, did the interview a week later and thought nothing of it. He said he did not know the website published his personal email address with the article.

“I was at dinner with my friends and received an email on my blackberry from an 80 year old gay Canadian Olympian that read my story and said I was a hero,” he said. 

Sims said that he receives three types of emails. The first group comments on his attractiveness. The second type comes from parents and coaches wanting to help out their children or players struggling with being gay or coming out. Finally, there are those emails from teenagers struggling with being gay.

“At first I was avoiding the last third of the emails I was receiving because I didn’t know how to handle them,” Sims said.

Sims said one message in particular from a 15-year-old wrestler helped him start to respond to these emails. He said the boy told him he shared the article about Sims with his family and team to help them understand what he was dealing with.

As Sims has transitioned from All-American defensive lineman into LGBT advocate, he said he encourages people to actively push for gay rights in spite of perceived difficulty.

“Four in five [age] 18 to 30 college students or college educated people believe that gays deserve civil rights, and yet you think that only one-third of your demographic is supportive,” Sims said. “You think that you are your own island of gay rights.”

Sims said he encourages activism among allies, straight people who participate in civil activism. Allies feel gay people deserve the same rights that they do.

Sims said allies are sometimes discouraged when they suffer similar discrimination to what the gay community does. He said allies should band together and find each other.

Sims said Catholics are accepting of gay rights as he cited a recently released study by the Public Religion Research Institute on how Catholics view sexuality and gender relations.

“This study shows that Catholics rock when it comes to gay issues,” Sims said. “You are more supportive of gay rights than any other Christian denomination and the U.S. population as a whole.”