(Editor's Note: As Part I explains, this post is not in any way intended to suggest that Te'o was not telling the truth. It is intended to reassure young people who identify with him, and may have been discouraged by his answer. Please read Part I before reading this. Ross Murray, GLAAD's Director of Religion, Faith & Values, contributed to this post.)
Manti Te'o is a football player
Te'o is still regarded as one of the most hyped NFL prospects of the 2013 draft, with or without the current publicity. Even though the casual fan might not associate the NFL with LGBT rights, the league is home to some of the most outspoken allies in all of professional sports. Recently, the Super Bowl bound head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, Jim Harbaugh, said that he would be fine if one of his players game out as gay. The sentiment, which was then echoed by many of his current roster, included the statement that the head coach only really cared about his players playing, “through their own personality and be(ing) who they are”.
Perhaps the most vocal and prominent example of LGBT allies in the NFL is linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo of the Baltimore Ravens, who vocally advocates for LGBT rights on twitter and in the media, and who sent a text to marriage equality advocates Brian Ellner and Michael Skolnik at 3:40 AM after his team won the AFC Championship asking how he could use the platform to help support marriage equality and end bullying against the LGBT community. He is joined by Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, and Houston Texans linebacker Connor Barwin. And at the college level, Jordan Rodgers, who is the Vanderbilt Commodores starting quarterback and little brother to NFL great Aaron Rodgers, has stated that sexual orientation is not important to him in a teammate. The only thing that matters is whether or not they perform on the field.
Manti Te'o is a Mormon
Things have changed among Mormons in the past few years. Increasingly, Mormons are doing some soul searching, apologizing for their anti-LGBT actions, and marching in Pride parades. This message is starting to reach the hierarchy of the Mormon Church, who recently put out a new web site: www.mormonsandgays.org. The policy of the church is still anti-LGBT, but the church is no longer encouraging harmful “ex-gay” practices or actively chasing away its LGBT members in some locations. However, pro-LGBT Mormons have launched their own web site: No More Strangers.
Manti Te'o attends the University of Notre Dame
Probably one of the best known Catholic schools in the United States, LGBT students on Notre Dame’s campus can find supportive systems in place. In December, Notre Dame announced that it would provide more support services for LGBT students, including a university-recognized LGBT student organization. This is in contrast to other Roman Catholic colleges and universities who have denied charter status for LGBT student organizations. And while the Roman Catholic hierarchy continues to be one of the most vocal opponents of LGBT equality, especially marriage equality, everyday Catholics continue to grow in support. A 2011 survey reported that 74% of Catholics support LGBT equality.
Manti Te'o is Hawaiian
The state of Hawaii currently recognizes both same-sex civil unions and reciprocal beneficiary relationships. Additionally, Hawaii law specifically prohibits discrimination based up gender identity and sexual orientation in employment, public accommodations and housing. The Advocate has reported that Hawaii’s current Governor is refusing to recognize the states gay marriage ban. Governor Neil Abercrombie states that the current constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in Hawaii is inherently unequal, which he says goes against his duties as governor of the state. The Advocate also reported in 2011 that a new majority of Hawaii voters, 49%, would support the legalization of same-sex marriage in the state. Also, recently, Towelrod reported that a number of high profile college athletes within Hawaii were starring in a number of anti-bullying public announcements that would air across the state. Additionally, Honolulu is one of the most gay-friendly cities in the United States. The city boasts a vibrant and accepting LGBT community and also hosts the annual LGBT themed Rainbow Film Festival.
Manti Te'o is an Eagle Scout
More than three thousand Eagle scouts have joined Scouts for Equality which is an organization which asks that the Boy Scouts of America remove their discriminatory ban on LGBT members within the organization. These Eagle Scouts are in fact at the head of the movement towards getting the ban lifted, a movement supported by more than 1 million people. Many of these Eagle Scouts have even gone so far as to mail their Eagle Scout medal and award back to the BSA.
If you identify with Manti Te'o for any of these reasons, and if you believe he answered the way he did because he felt he would not be accepted in any of these communities, take heart in this information. And we hope Te'o himself uses his platform to support LGBT inclusion in each of these communities.