Is Te’o Gay? Does it Matter?

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About Jamie Reidy

Jamie Reidy is a writer and Propecia "before" model. His new book A Walk's As Good As A Hit: Advice/Threats from My Old Man is a collection of funny essays about him and his father. His second book Bachelor 101: Cooking + Cleaning = Closing is a cookbook/lifestyle guide for clueless single guys just like him. His book Hard Sell: Now a Major Motion Picture LOVE and OTHER DRUGS
in which Jake Gyllenhaal played "Jamie."


  1. “manliness reigns supreme in the Warrior and Samoan cultures”

    I am seeing this sort of generalization repeated a lot, and it wasn’t my impression of Pacific Island cultures. So I’ve been researching it. It seems from what I’m reading, in the larger spectrum, Samoa is rather more relaxed about homosexuality than many cultures (maybe even big swaths of the USA).

    In fact, Samoa has a rather unique history of accepting as ordinary people of androgynous sex, like Native Americans were accepting of “two spirit” people. Much homophobia in America stems from people’s rigid attitudes toward gender roles.

    I can’t help wondering if people are presuming that Samoa is a homophobic culture in a sort of condescending way that we presume that gay people only have it good in America and Europe. (Or worse, all people of color dislike gays.)

    Otherwise, Te’o is certainly surrounded by a hostile culture of Mormonism, Catholicism and machismo, which if he was gay, would be a powerful incentive to go to extremes to hide it. Lots of gays could tell stories of the imaginary friends they created to stop probing and uncomfortable questions.

    Does it matter? It matters to his mental health to find a way to make peace with it.

  2. You “don’t want to presume” that Te’o might be gay? I certainly understand not wanting to define another person’s sexual orientation for them, but I’m not comfortable with this expression used here as it implies there’s something wrong with being gay and that gay people are in some way inferior to straight people. Wish this sentence had been phrased just a little bit more sensitively/accurately.

    • Well, I think presuming he’s gay would be different than presuming his sexual orientation in this case, because the orientation he’s putting forward is of being straight. If he weren’t saying anything then you would frame it neural, and that would be right. But here, I think Jamie’s right that the people who are posing the idea that he may be gay are presuming something other than what he is stating publicly.

  3. Nothingwrong says:

    It’s definitely not off-limits. It’s definitely not an offensive theory, either. Are people really to believe in the course of NFL history, there haven’t been non-straight players? That’s along the line of thinking where people believe in the entire universe, Earth is the only planet harboring life.

    Religious beliefs aside.

  4. John Anderson says:

    I think it matters to the LGBT community if he’s gay.. It breaks down gender stereotypes, but I don’t think it matters to the NFL as much as people think. There are openly gay people at my job. There were openly gay people at the school I went to. That might be why they have these huge dividers between the urinals, but nobody had an issue with it in the bathroom as far as I know.

    What are you going to do challenge the masculinity of someone who just crushed you? There are female reporters in the locker room (which I don’t think is right). I don’t see how anyone can be more embarrassed being naked in front of someone with the same junk. That being said. I think there are limits to what the public has the right to know about public figures. I believe his sexuality is off limits since it doesn’t have anything to do with his playing football.

  5. This has to be one of the least socially-responsible articles I’ve read in this young 2013. And with it being 2013, you’d think that we’ve progressed towards not being concerned about someone’s sexuality, much less speculating someone is gay without any concrete evidence to back the speculation. This is pure sensationalism, and a rather disappointing attempt at passing off entertainment as journalism. There are other issues that I see here.

    First, I presume that you are speaking of “Hawaiian,” “Samoan,” and “Warrior” cultures based on what you see in the media and from a few trips to different islands in the Pacific. Manliness reigns supreme? No. In Samoan culture (by the way, Te’o is Samoan, born and raised in Hawaii. He is not Hawaiian, and Hawaiian/Samoan should not be used interchangeably), the fa’afafine is widely recognized as the third gender. If families have nothing but sons, it’s accepted for a son to cross-dress or become a transexual/transvestite and assume traditional female roles and tasks (i.e. housecleaning, raising children, laundry). Samoans value the fa’afafine, and will staunchly defend them should a homophobic individual harass or ridicule them.

    In Native Hawaiian culture, there is a third gender known as the mahu. It’s very much the same as Samoa’s fa’afafine, as all of Polynesian islands are similar in social and political structures prior to Western contact.

    However, in today’s Hawaii, the mahu has lost some respect due to Hawaiians’ efforts in assimilating to the dominant American culture. Specifically on the island of Oahu, where the US military has a large presence and is the source of a majority of the state’s Black population, males in Hawaii are exposed to (and I hate to use an overly-generalizing term here) “hip-hop” culture, that has its Black roots. These days,hip-hop has evolved into a force that encourages posturing of hypersexuality and hypermasculiinity, ultimately resulting in this younger generation of Hawaiians (Native and non-) marginalizing the mahu that was once cherished in Hawaiian culture.

    Second, I’ll answer your question if making guesses like this moves forward the conversation of sexuality in sports: NO. If anything, your supporting thoughts takes society back in the acceptance and embracing of the LGBT community to not be the “others,” but to just simply be part of “everyone.” Discussing sexuality should not be off limits, but discussing an individual’s sexuality (Te’o's) should be. An individual’s sexuality has no bearing on his ability to perform in a job, whether it’s in graphic design (which is his major), or as an NFL middle linebacker. If anything, homophobes are probably the ones who cannot perform their job because of fear–fear that is stoked by archaic ideologies that your article perpetuates (Playgirl vs. Playboy? Delightfully puerile).

    Finally, this exemplifies America’s problem with putting athletes on a pedestal. Gridiron god? Because a small group of people are beginning to speculate that their “gridiron god” may be homosexual, sports fans are on the edges of their collective seats, concerned that the world as they know it (e.g. hey, you gotta be straight to survive in sports!) could come to a screeching halt. I’m amazed that there is more paranoia and buzz over this “world” coming to an end when there is no solid evidence to support this paranoia. Does it sound similar to the Mayans’ 2012 paranoia? We “survived” the whole 2012 ordeal and made it into 2013, but it seems like we’ll slow our own progress with self-manifested fears and spending immeasurable resources on trying to stop forces beyond our control.

  6. Jamie Reidy says:

    Thanks for reading and taking the time to make comments.

    Miranda, you bring up a lot of good points. No one has ever called me puerile! I guess the big question is “what took so long?”

    I apologize for my lazy use of “Hawaiian” instead of “Samoan.” I have been to Hawaii 35 times (mostly for work) and definitely got a sense of the warrior culture. However, I also served in the Army with several Samoan men who were uber-macho. So, perhaps I let those experiences color my views going forward.

    I agree with you that someone’s being gay does not affect his ability to play middle linebacker. But I don’t think NFL GMs, coaches and players would agree. Hopefully, an all-star player will come out and then show the lunkheads that sexuality doesn’t matter, much in the same way that the repeal of DADT has helped the military.

  7. Steve Savickas says:

    Te’o already admitted continuing his untruthfulness even after he claims he learned of the alleged hoax. Therefore, he acted in furtherance of the hoax. He cannot be trusted.
    Remember, Te’o engaged in a nationally televised sob story. He kept it up to the embarrassment of his family, his teammates, and the university.
    He and former NFL quarterback Joey Harrington share a trait. Let’s face it. They are both gay.

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