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To countless young people, LGBT or not, he exemplified the progress America had made.
"Paradise," Gordon replied truthfully, praying no one would recognize the name.
Cue a roomful of voices cackling in the background of the call. Cue a panicked Gordon taking a photo with two random women and texting it to his teammates, in an effort to pre-empt further inquiry.
And there was the predictably toxic faction of the Internet that derided his quotes to ESPN ("I feel so good right now"), ("I can finally breathe") and The New York Times ("I didn't want to keep hiding").
But Michael Sam had come out only two months before Gordon; Jason Collins 10 months before that.
In a country on the verge of legalizing same-sex marriage, news of a University of Massachusetts Amherst guard with an indiscernible pro trajectory almost felt routine.
The record shows that Gordon's teammates -- to whom he'd come out at a meeting led by their head coach, Derek Kellogg -- responded with support.Gordon soon realized, however, that a picture he'd Instagrammed earlier that night had inadvertently been geo-tagged, triggering the teammate's question.Weeks later, the locker room also discovered that Gordon had liked an Instagram photo in which he was posing alongside a man who was, as the team suspected, his boyfriend at the time."You're our family; we love you," one player told him. Come basketball season last fall, any strains of intolerance at otherwise hostile arenas proved categorically mute. Nobody said anything at all."By then, Gordon had already changed the header of his Twitter account to a rainbow-colored logo reading #BETRUE."At the beginning, people were saying, 'Fans are going to heckle him,'" Gordon recalls. He'd Instagrammed grinning, shirtless selfies for his thousands of followers.But he adds: "Derrick is f---ing fearless."Or, as Gordon puts it, "I want other people to look at me and say, 'OK, damn, he plays for a top school, he's one of the top players on his team and he's openly gay.' That's one of the main reasons I came out: to be myself."It's a crisp night in mid-May, and Gordon and I are sitting at the TGI Fridays in his hometown of Plainfield, New Jersey.