Jason Collins came out in 2013 with an announcement in Sports Illustrated 

By Jess Cagle
March 08, 2018 10:27 AM


In the moving comedy-drama Love, Simon (in theaters March 16) Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel star as the parents of Simon, a high schooler played by Nick Robinson who struggles to tell loved ones that he’s gay. Acceptance in America has increased dramatically in recent years, but coming out as LGBTQ is still a profound and often traumatic experience.

PEOPLE and ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, along with GLSEN, the non-profit that fights to make schools safe for all kids, invited individuals from all walks of life to share real-life coming out stories. COMING OUT STORIES (produced by Ryan Buxton) can be seen at people.com/comingoutstories and on PeopleTV (download the app on your favorite mobile or connected TV device).

Jason Collins
Landry Major/The New York Times

For Jason Collins—the retired NBA player who played for the Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Atlanta Hawks and Washington Wizards—wearing the number 98 on his jersey for most of his 13-season career had special significance. Collins, who came out as gay in 2013 in a cover story for Sports Illustrated, says the number paid respects to Matthew Shepard, a gay man who was tortured and killed because of his sexuality in 1998.

“I remember being a sophomore in college when Matthew Shepherd was killed,” Collins, 39, says. “Every time I put on that jersey, it was just a silent acknowledgment to myself and to my friends and family — who knew why I was wearing that number — of being a proud gay black man playing in the NBA. Sort of hiding in plain sight.”

Collins adds that 1998 also coincides with the founding of The Trevor Project—an organization that provides crisis and suicide prevention to the LGBTQ community—which Collins has become involved in.