Apr 152004
 
Authors: Joelle Milholm

Between belting out tunes from Sarah McLachlan and Christina

Aguilera, Esera Tuaolo, a former NFL player who came out as gay in

2002, told the story of his life at the Lory Student Center Theatre

Thursday night.

As the keynote speaker of the Transgender, Bisexual, Gay,

Lesbian Awareness Days (T’BGLAD), a week presented by the Student

Organization of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered, Tuaolo spoke

of his life before, during and after his nine-year career in the

NFL.

With a voice as powerful as the 405 pounds that his arms can

lift on the bench press, Tuaolo singing the lyrics to Aguilera’s

“Beautiful” echoed his message of people being happy with their

true identities.

“Only a 320-pound, ex-NFL gay man could pull off Christina

Aguilera,” said Kato Steffan, a sophomore forestry major who was in

attendance. “It was good.”

Tuaolo is one of three NFL players to come out as gay, all of

whom came out after retiring. Brenda Gardner, a SOGLBT co-chair,

thought Tuaolo had one message that stood out above the rest.

“The biggest thing he said was that it is just really important

to be yourself. It is what will make you the happiest,” Gardner

said.

Tuaolo first decided to hide his true identity when he was five

years old, after his friends started making jokes about being

gay.

“That is when I started living my double life,” Tuaolo said.

“That is when I knew I could not be myself.”

After a troubling and confusing childhood, Tuaolo finally found

something he was good at on the football field. He played in high

school before getting a scholarship to Oregon State University,

where five years later he became the highest-drafted OSU player in

the NFL.

“It is hard enough for a man to get into the NFL, but it is

twice as hard for a gay man because of the things we carry with

us,” Tuaolo said.

He was picked 35th by the Green Bay Packers and went on to play

for the Vikings, Jaguars, Panthers and played in Super Bowl XXXIII

as an Atlanta Falcon. He retired in 1999 and became a husband and a

father.

After going through the trials and tribulations of being a gay

man on the football field, which some people consider to be one of

the most macho and gay-unfriendly places in the world, he decided

to come out of the closet.

“One of the reasons I came out is because it was time,” Tuaolo

said. “I was tired of lying. I wanted my kids to know that we were

happy and we weren’t ashamed of who we were.”

Even though he battled depression, anxiety attacks and even

suicide attempts, Tuaolo never revealed his sexual identity while

playing football because of fear and a desire to support his mother

and siblings.

“I was scared of being hurt. I would not have played in the NFL

for nine years if I came out earlier,” Tuaolo said.

Tuaolo now lives with his family in Minnesota, where he is

starting a new career as a professional singer.

“I would never go back because my life right now is so

wonderful.”

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