ST. PAUL — As Minnesota advocates prepare to push for marriage equality in the state, Shades of Yellow (SOY), the nation’s only Hmong lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) organization, prepares to celebrate its 10-year anniversary of providing support and empowerment to Hmong LGBTQ in the Twin Cities.
The 9th Annual SOY New Year takes place Saturday, March 2, 2013 from 5:30-9:30 p.m. at DS Event Center, 415 Pascal Street North in Saint Paul. The night includes song and dance performances, a drag competition, food and awards. Event Sponsors: PFund Foundation, John Larsen Foundation, DS Event Center, Outfront MN, Hmong American Partnership, CAMP Bar, Leadership Paradigms.
Keynoting the event will be retired NFL defensive tackle Esera Tuaolo. The former Minnesota Viking also played for the Green Bay Packers, the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars during a career that spanned nine years.
Tuaolo is also a human rights activist and gained notoriety as an outspoken gay advocate. He came out while playing in the NFL during a time when not many players would risk the possible consequences of the media exposure.
“Since coming out in 2003, I have dedicated my life to bringing awareness to LGBTQ issues that we face here in the United states… to educate and to humanize who we are as a community, thus trying to create a better world for my children and for LGBTQ across the nation,” Tuaolo stated in the SOY press release. “For over a decade, I have traveled across this nation speaking on issues that need to be heard and spreading that, ‘HATE IN ANY FORM IS WRONG’. Also, as a Christian building a bridge between religion and who God intended us to be. We are all God’s Children.”
Both SOY and Tuaolo were staunch advocates opposing the Minnesota marriage amendment leading up to the November 2012 elections. SOY’s organizing efforts, along with partners Minnesotans United for All Families and Hmong American Partnership, reached over 10,000 Hmong and Asian Pacific Islanders, helping to defeat the marriage amendment.
For SOY, Tuaolo providing the keynote speech represents the intersections of identity and issues facing the Hmong LGBTQ community. These include layers of race, sexual orientation, gender, class and religion. Hence the theme of this year’s SOY New Year: “MasQueerade: Identities Within.”
Background: Esera Tavai Tuaolo was born on the Island of Oahu and now resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Esera played in the National Football League (NFL) for 9 years after being drafted by the Green Bay Packers in 1991 in the second round – 35th pick overall.
After leaving the Green Bay Packers in 1992 Esera went on to play with the Minnesota Vikings, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the 1998 Super Bowl contender Atlanta Falcons and later ending his career with the Carolina Panthers.
Tuaolo broke stereotypes as an athlete in multiple ways. First, as a recording artist, being featured on albums with renowned country and rap artists, as well as releasing his first album, “ESERA”.
Later in his career, in 2003, he shocked the world when he announced on HBO REAL SPORTS with Bryant Gumble that he is part of the LGBT community. Being Gay does not define Esera Tuaolo, who says being an incredible human being does.
Though he has thought of walking through the valley of death a million times by trying to commit suicide, he was freed by three words “I AM GAY”.
Esera is also a father of two beautiful twins, Mitchell and Michele. As an advocate, Esera travels the country, educating people on homophobia and sharing his life-long experiences of a gay athlete living in a masculine world of football, hoping that his life story will help save lives. His message is that “Hate in any form is wrong.”
In 2006 Esera also wrote a book entitled “Alone in the Trenches” an autobiography of his life growing up with a secret that nearly took his life, but at the end comes out victorious because he is alive. His mission now is to save lives and to spread his music around the world.
Shades of Yellow (SOY) is the first and only incorporated Hmong Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) non-profit organization in the world. It provides support, education and advocacy to Hmong LGBTQ and allies.
Based in Minnesota, SOY’s mission is to support a community of empowered Hmong LGBTQ to create positive cultural and social change that enhances their lives and communities. Its vision is a Hmong community that is aware, supportive of and engaged in Hmong LGBTQ issues.
For more information visit www.shadesofyellow.org.