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Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-02-22



Football Star Helps Launch PFLAG Fund
by Bob Roehr

This article shared 2379 times since Wed Feb 5, 2003
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Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays unveiled a scholarship program at the Nation Press Club in Washington, D.C., Jan. 23. The first scholarship will be named the Esera Tuaolo Student-Athlete Scholarship, in honor of the retired pro football player who recently came out.

David Tseng, PFLAG's executive director, said the scholarship is being established to 'honor a man for his courage.' It will be awarded to a GLBT kid or straight ally who needs the help, with funding coming from the estate of a gay man. The process will be established later this year with the first scholarships awarded for the fall of 2004.

'I'm so honored, this is the first scholarship in my name,' Tuaolo said. Throughout his college and pro career he 'was living with a secret' of his homosexuality. He was depressed because he thought that it meant that he could not have a family. 'But now I do have that picket fence' and everything else.

'When I came out, it was for my family,' he said. 'By that I mean for my husband and our children. So that they would know that their fathers were comfortable and proud of who they were.'

Tuaolo wouldn't encourage pro athletes to come out. 'The reason is, I've been there and I've done this. It's also our livelihood, and for me it was about being able to help my mom and some of my brothers and sisters.' He thought that any athlete who came out would 'get hurt' and 'probably lose their job.'

He said that reaction from the community has been great. At Aspen Ski Week, a lesbian whose father works with high-profile jocks came up to him and said, 'You're the reason why my father accepts me now.'

'It helped me realize that my story is helping people,' Tuaolo said.

Rep. Robert Matsui, D-Calif., spoke movingly of the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. He was relocated to one of those camps at six months of age and spent the next three and a half years living there. It happened because of 'an absence of political leadership.'

He praised PFLAG for 'doing something very fundamental ... that every child in America should have the right to achieve what he or she is capable of, without any impediments, without any distractions. By your leadership on these issues, you are providing those fundamental rights for that child.'

Sam Thoron, PFLAG's president, said the group exists 'at least in part to reconcile and reunite families' to the fact that someone among them is GLBT. 'The loving support of our families is critical in how we perceive ourselves and how we go out and approach a hostile world.'

'Our work is to change social attitudes. Our work is to change hearts and minds where we can reach them. So that GLBT people no longer need fear coming out to their families.'

In a private conversation, Thoron related how their daughter, then 19, came out to them in January of 1990. 'When Ruth came out to us, we realized that she had not changed, and that we needed information and support to deal with this somewhat painful new information.' They became involved with PFLAG about six weeks later.

'We wanted information and support, we wanted to talk to people who have walked the path. And we found we could do this at PFLAG,' said Thoron. A few months later he got roped into the governing leadership of the San Francisco chapter. 'The helpline telephone ended up getting into our house so I answered the calls and found that I could answer requests for speaking and help people by sharing my story.'

That was the start of more than a decade of leadership within the organization at the local, regional, and national levels.

'What we are doing is challenging some very, very basic concepts about gender roles,' he said. 'We are seeing, particularly in the schools, anyone who doesn't quite fit the stereotype of a gender role is subject to enormous cruelty.'

He says that parents often can play a greater and more effective role in changing the law than can their kids. 'Somehow it is much more powerful for me to go to a legislator and say, 'I'm scared for my daughter,' than for my daughter to go and say, 'gosh, I'm scared.' Because there still is the underlying perception that it is a choice. Well, she did make a choice, to be open and honest about who she is.'


Worried about losing the amazing ground gained by girls and women since Title IX was enacted? With changes expected by the Bush Administration, your voice can make a different. See women's activist Web sites, including .

This article shared 2379 times since Wed Feb 5, 2003
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