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While some countries persecute gay citizens, America has become more accepting of homosexuality over the years. Reports estimate that 6 percent of the world's gay population—15 million total—currently live in the United States.

Though he's one of millions, John Amaechi's coming out story sparked a nationwide debate. Why did his homosexuality make headlines? John is the first player in NBA history to come out of the closet.

For years, John bounced around from one basketball team to another, but no matter what city he played for, he says he never felt it was okay to be openly gay in the NBA.

John believes his teammates knew he was gay, but he says no one talked about his sexuality overtly. "Basketball teams, sports in general, have adopted the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy," he says.

Finally, after years of living a lie, John decided to come out while attending a gay pride celebration in his hometown, Manchester, England. When John saw Sir Ian McKellen, an openly gay actor, riding in the parade, he says was inspired to speak his truth.

"I saw Sir Ian McKellen in an absurdly tight pair of leather pants on the back of a pink Cadillac, and despite how odd it looks as an image, I saw the way people reacted as he waved his flag," John says. "He lifted their spirits. … [I thought] if I could have even a small part of an effect like that, that would be magnificent."
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FROM: Gay Around the World
Published on January 01, 2006

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