Joakim Noah Learns The Power Of His Voice

Didn't Joakim's mother ever teach him that if he can't say something nice, don't say anything?

My first experience of feeling terror was being accidentally locked in a bathroom stall at school when I was five years old. After screaming "I'm in here!!!" over and over hoping someone would hear me, I was eventually saved from what I assumed would be a slow and painful death with only a toilet to lean on. I walked away from that deeply impactful moment with a level of appreciation for my voice that I'm certain wasn't anticipated among the list of goals my parents and teachers had for me in kindergarten. The power of speaking up became crystal clear... so, I never stopped.

I grew into an adult who is both in love with and driven by the concept of "having a voice." I've made a career out of it, in fact, hearing people's authentic voices on a daily basis, while also proudly using my own. Your voice, both made up of what you choose to say, and what you choose not to say, is a representation of you, your beliefs, your thoughts, your feelings, your character. Your voice is your power, it's who you are.

Last night, during the NBA Eastern Conference finals game between the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat, Bulls player Joakim Noah used his voice in a way that he's already apologizing for. He was caught on camera screaming at a fan, finishing what he calls "getting caught up in the moment" by yelling, "F*ck you, f*ggot."

During that same game a public service announcement staring NBA stars Grant Hill and Jared Dudley (with The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network) aired, to address the use of anti-gay slurs among teens - I guess Joakim Noah missed that one. Awesome.

Whether anti-gay behaviors are in the form of slurs or direct bullying, the fact remains that "I'm Gay" continues to rank as one of the most difficult phrases to utter for so many amazing, delicious, gorgeous, and fabulous human beings on this earth. Their voice is taken from them, especially after influential sports stars such as Joakim Noah make such douchebag moves as he did last night.

When part of your identity is being used to describe an asshole in the stands at a basketball game, it's hardly an invitation to feel comfortable in your skin. It's more like being asked to hold you authentic self hostage inside, or risk being met with profound disrespect, unkindness, and blatant violence if you choose not to.

The thing is though, when you hold your authentic self hostage inside, whether it be your sexual orientation or anything else about you for that matter, things get dark, heavy and blurry. As human beings we're made up in such a way that the person we really are wants so badly to be seen and heard in the world that if we don't allow that to happen, an emotional mold starts to grow inside us where our true self is sitting.

Sometimes the emotional mold made up of fear of judgment, shame and bullying shifts into depression - and sometimes anger. Occasionally it spills over into substance abuse, and as statistics show us, for many teenagers it also shifts into suicide.

But, thankfully, just as Joakim Noah's slur was met with Hill and Dudley's amazing announcement along with a likely $100K fine, much anti-gay bullying is met with amazing support around the country and in celebrity culture.

Recently Don Lemon of CNN proudly announced that he's gay, Taylor Swift and Britney Spears continue to speak out, both musically and otherwise, supporting gay rights, and hockey star Sean Avery of the New York Rangers was the first professional sports start to appear in a video to support gay marriage.

To join these amazing stars and use your voice to support anti-gay bullying efforts, please visit an organization I'm deeply proud to be a part of, The Gay-Straight Alliance Network. We empower youth activists to stop bullying and create safer schools throughout California, and throughout the country. It's more than a cause to's a way of saying; no ones voice or authentic self deserves to be locked inside.

We're throwing an amazing event and fundraiser called Fabulous By Design on June 9, 2011. Please click here to purchase tickets either for yourself or as a donation to the organization. And mark me as your host so I can make sure to thank you personally.

Using your voice to support others in using theirs is empowering. I highly recommend it.

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