By Pam KrugerYou may have heard that NBA center Jason Collins made history today. It wasn't for his ball-playing. He came out as gay, making him the first major professional athlete to come out during his career. In a story for Sports Illustrated, on their site today, Collins wrote, "I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay." In the article, he explains that he decided to go public after the Boston bombings. "Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully?" Supportive tweets from colleagues poured in. Baron Davis on the Knicks tweeted, "I am so proud of my bro @jasoncollins for being real." Even Kobe Bryant -- who a few years back was fined after a homophobic outburst -- tweeted out praise. "Don't suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others," he wrote.
In 29 states, it's still legal to be fired for being gay because there aren't laws that specifically prevent discrimination against gay workers. Still, there have been huge strides made in gay rights in the past few years. Recently, gay men and women won the right to serve openly in the military, and gay troops sipped champagne with their commander-in-chief at thePentagon's first gay pride reception. And last year when Anderson Cooper announced he was gay, it barely made a stir in the broadcast world. But almost half of college-educated professionals say they remain in the closet at work. Last year, AOL Jobs noted five industries that were still inhospitable to gay workers. Professional sports, especially football, was top on the list, but with Collins' announcement, do you think that will change soon? You can read the rest of Collins' Sports Illustrated article here. See below for the 5 hardest industries to come out in. Professional Sports In July 2012, U.S. Olympic soccer star Megan Rapinoe came out publicly as gay (she was already out to her family and teammates). In doing so, she joined a crowded club. There are plenty of openly lesbian sportswomen, but distinctly fewer openly gay male athletes, especially in the biggest money-making sports: football, basketball and baseball.
"The climate is much different for men," Rapinoe told USA Today. "That stigma is only going to be broken when people come out and see that there is a positive response." Wade Davis chipped away at the stigma in June 2012, when he became the fourth former NFL player to come out of the closet. No NFL player has ever admitted to being gay while still playing the game. "The NFL has a reputation," retired lineman Roy Simmons told The New York Times in 2002, "and it's not even a verbal thing -- it's just kind of known. You are gladiators; you are male; you kick butt." "You can be a wife-beater, do drugs, get in a car wreck, and the team will take care of you," said Butch Woolfolk, a former running back who played with Simmons. "But if you're gay, it's like the military: Don't ask, don't tell." The Boy Scouts In April 2012, the Boy Scouts of America told Jennifer Tyrrell that she would no longer be needed as a troop leader, or a member at all. She would no longer take her scouts to a soup kitchen or help them collect canned food. She would no longer teach them the values of compassion, citizenship and respect. She didn't meet the Boy Scouts' "high standards," they said. She was raising her four children with another woman. The Boy Scouts of America's policy against openly gay leaders and youths has attracted a lot of attention recently. Tyrrell's Change.org petition garnered over 300,000 signatures. Both President Obama and 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney have urged the 3.7 million-strong organization to change its ways. Even actor Chuck Norris chimed in, chastising the president for his "pro-gay Boy Scouts of America" agenda. Although the Boy Scouts recently proposed allowing gay youths to join as members, it doesn't plan on changing a ban on gay adults. Financial Services Industries that are hit frequently by sex discrimination lawsuits often aren't the best places for gay men and women either. Macho cultures tend to work that way. And there are few cultures as manly as Wall Street.
In the mid-1990s, trader Walter Shubert tried to hide his sexual identity. "I was going through the motions and as unhappy as you could possibly be," he told High Brow magazine. "My spirit had died." When he finally came out to his sister as gay, she put him in touch with a therapist. "I'm the only gay man on the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange," Shubert told him.