So just the other day the first openly gay All-American defensive lineman, Michael Sam, will be entering the NFL draft. I say, big f’n deal. I’ll tell you right now that he is NOT THE FIRST gay All-American defensive lineman to enter the NFL Draft. The only thing that makes this special is that he is open about it. This whole thing reminded me of story I followed way back in the late 90’s.
It was around sixteen years ago that I heard about some kickboxer dude in Thailand named Nong Toom who was kicking all kinds of ass. I also heard he was gay. This guy even fought and won in Lumpini Stadium which is basically the Mecca of Muay Thai over there. The stories of his fights that filtered over to the U.S. were hilariously beautiful. While wearing blush and lipstick, he would viciously defeat his often larger opponents by opening up cuts on their heads and then giving them a kiss before the ref called the TKO. He had punishing leg kicks and elbows that were sharp as knives.
His pre-fight theatrics were just as noteworthy as demonstrated in his wai khru. The wai khru is a traditional dance that the Muay Thai fighter will perform to respect their teachers, their family, and their religion. Many fighters add their own personal touches to rattle their opponents. I’ve seen fighters draw and shoot imaginary arrows and some would mime digging graves and burying their invisible opponents. Nong Toom’s wai khru was very feminine and had him prancing around the ring, applying make-up and lipstick, and primping himself in a mirror that wasn’t there.
From what I’ve heard, the Thai public loved it. The spectacle of it all had people flocking to the stadium to watch Toom fight.
It was maybe a year or two later that I found out about Nong Toom’s sex change. Up until then I mistakenly thought he was gay. He was transgender (yes, there’s a difference). In 1999 Toom went under the knife and became a woman. In Thailand there are superstitions about allowing women to enter the boxing ring. Toom was rumored to have fought her last fight.
Then, out of the blue, I heard about Nong Toom’s triumphant return to the ring and it would take place literally 15 minutes from my house in Los Angeles. She was scheduled to fight a man at the Hollywood Park Casino in a three round co-ed exhibition match. I got my tickets and I’m sorry to say it was a disappointment. Her entrance was pretty badass though. She had a DJ scratching and playing beats while being accompanied by a guy playing a didgeridoo live. Pretty haunting. She did the whole flamboyant wai khru thing which had the crowd going nuts. The thing is, when the fight started I could see she wasn’t the killer I had heard about. Not sure if it was the hormone injections, her recent surgery, or just not having her heart into it, but in the middle of round two she took a shot to the gut and threw in the towel, accepting the TKO.
Going back to Michael Sam; I could give two shits if he’s gay. What’s sad is that all eyes will be on him when he takes the field next year, and if he doesn’t perform more than exceptionally that may be enough justification for ignorant people to cement their ignorance. I would love to see Sam cop a little bit of Nong Toom’s story and do some real hetero-crushing damage on the field. Sadly, most Americans can’t comprehend treating individuals unlike themselves with a little respect and compassion but they can really understand a good ass kicking.
The LGBT struggle for acceptance in now what is mostly the minority of the American population can be summed up beautifully in this quote from the episode of the Simpsons entitled, “Homer-phobia”. In the episode, John (played by John Waters), after saving a homophobic Homer Simpson from certain doom says, “Homer, I won your respect, and all I had to do was save your life. Now, if every gay man could just do the same, you’d be set.”
Good luck, Michael Sam.