Second in the series of GAY CHAMPIONS, in honor of the Beijing Olympic games and an ode to gay champions of our past, Esera Tuaolo...a kind, affable man who with a wink casually invites you to climb Gay Mountain.
Tuaolo was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, a city named for the ancient act of scraping hummus off of another man's penis with your teeth. Esera fought through the gayness and played football for the Oregon State University Beavers, a bit of irony that was surely not his intention. Tuaolo played well enough to be drafted by the Green Bay Packers, and he enjoyed a rather eventless but lengthy (and girthy) playing career in the NFL. He never played for a Super Bowl winning team, but his championness was cemented in 1999 as he played on the NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons team. Although the Falcs were not able to prevail over the heterosexual Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl, Tuaolo still bravely played just well enough to keep his spot on the team. CHAMPION.
In the article linked to, Tuaolo recounts with extreme sadness the internal pain he felt when teammates mockingly joked about two penises touching one another. This pain did not drive Tuaolo to become a gay champion
"I'm pausing,'' he tells HBO correspondent Bernard Goldberg, "because you just took me back, took me back to me biting my lip again." Tuaolo would laugh at the jokes on the outside, but "inside it would be tearing me up, that I stood there and listened to it and didn't say anything about it."
This pain did not drive Tuaolo to become a gay champion; indeed, he became one in spite of it, triumphing over not only opposing players, but also over homophobia and gayness itself. Esera Tuaolo was bigger than gayness. He was gayness, whatever that means. I'm losing my train of gay thought here.
After Esera retired from the NFL, he finally came out in 2002 as a man who prefers the exclusive company of other men, to which he credited his newfound happiness. No longer did he have to disguise himself by doing shot after shot of (apple-flavored) tequila, and no longer did he have suicidal thoughts (suggestively) dancing through his head. Tuaolo mentioned that he didn't give it his all due to the possibilities that the increased attention that becoming a star would bring could lead to his being outed, publicly humiliated, tarred and feathered, and forced to Honolulu with shady men in dark, secluded alleys. His friend said that did not have any dreams to play in the NFL, and was really just doing it for the paycheck. And let me tell you, I can surely respect that. Esera Tuaolo will always be a gay champion in my book, which will likely be entitled "GAY CHAMPIONS". It will largely be about gay champions.