Out of Bounds for 20 Years, Gay Soccer Player David Testo Lived a Closeted Life. In November, He Decided it was Finally Time to Come Out. And He Hasn’t Played Professionally Since.
October 15, 2012
He tiptoes around the dark laminate floor barefoot. His boyfriend Romain and his best friend Steven are up front. The four others in his yoga class don’t know about the past he pushes out of his body with every “Hoooommmmm.” They don’t know what he was. His giant calves, poking out of his bloused sweat pants, give him away, but only if they knew to look for them. He isn’t built like a soccer player, after all. He looks more like a male gymnast, an upside down triangle stacked atop barrel quads. His heavy, bassy voice gently guides them through their contortions. When he cracks open a window, the sound of cars ripping through puddles washes over the room.
Downstairs is a health food store – the sort that burns incense and displays carefully-placed crystals. Across the grimy street at La Pataterie you can get a hamburger for $1.89 or a hotdog for 89 cents. A few blocks up the road, squatting in the shadow of the Olympic Stadium sits newly-renovated Saputo Stadium, his would-be place of work. Where the Montreal Impact of Major League Soccer plays on without him.
In the corner of the tiny studio a shrine to a Hindu guru marks the spot against the brick wall where he unwrapped his secret for all the world to see last November. Where he drew a final constricted breath and expelled all the negativity by telling the CBC-Radio Canada camera that he was gay. That he hadn’t chosen to be. But that this was just who he was.
David Testo doesn’t remember anything from before the day his dad died of colon cancer, when he was 10. But from that day onward, he knew a few other things to be true. One, his father was gone. Two, he was gay. And three, he would pay a terrible penitence for it.
He wasn’t quite sure what it meant to be gay. In his confusion, he sometimes dressed up in his mom’s high heels. He could only imagine being with other boys, recognizing himself in what his surroundings railed against. The Bible, the only truth in his pious Baptist community down in North Carolina, was pretty clear on the evil of homosexuality: “Thou shalt not lie with the male as one lieth with a woman: for it is abomination,” Leviticus, 18:22. Even though the Testos, now consisting of just David, his mother Judy and his older sister Angela, had stopped going to church when his dad died, he remained a devout believer. He had a wooden chest in his bedroom that contained cherished possessions – bible verse and drawings he’d made on his own that read “I love Jesus.” But what he loved, he was told, hated him.
David digested his father’s death by pretending he’d never had a father. He was a talented baseball player. Chris Narveson was a teammate and close friend of his. They were more or less equals. Narveson won 23 games for the Milwaukee Brewers over 2010 and 2011. But David’s father had always taken him to practices and games. So he withdrew, feeling the pull from his other love, soccer.
He felt more comfortable on a soccer team. It was more of a team sport; suited him better somehow. The game wasn’t so macho and the camaraderie not so testosterone driven. And the words “gay” and “fag” weren’t used nearly as much. He was good. His mother started driving him from Asheville to Charlotte or Winston-Salem – 2½ hours each way – in search of better competition.
When he hit puberty he became attracted to his best friend. They’d always played together, wrestling all day long. He started to enjoy it in a different way. It got awkward.
His family was close with the family of a teammate. David and he had a great bond. They shared a bed on sleepovers. One night, a line was crossed. Nobody found out, but it never was the same. Distraught over the fallout, the end of their closeness, David swore he’d never give in to his inner urges with a teammate or friend again.
“I was hyper-aware of my sexuality because I was different,” he says on a bright afternoon, sipping from a tall cup of tea on a terrace along Rue Sainte-Catherine, the main artery of Montreal’s gay village. His handsome face, topped with carefully-calibrated blond hair, makes him look like a buffer version of the actor Neil Patrick Harris. He turns a lot of heads.
“I kind of hated myself. When you’re told gay people are sinners and are going to burn in eternal hell and you’re a child, what are you supposed to feel? It just couldn’t be the truth. I didn’t know who I was.” There was no Internet then, no way of circumventing Bible Belt propaganda and discovering other truths. “If you’re straight, you learn from examples everywhere around you,” says David. “But if you’re gay you’re just left hanging there – you learn about your sexuality anonymously, through dark spaces.”
He hated his voice because he thought he sounded gay. He couldn’t stand to watch recordings of himself. “It takes a long time to accept it because you really do try to change or deny it. It’s the one thing I can’t change. I can change pretty much everything else about me but I can’t change who I’m sexually attracted to.”
He tried anyway. He decided to do what closeted gay men have done for centuries: construct a beautiful facade behind which to huddle. So he wouldn’t go to hell after all, he decided. Yes, that was the best option available; the only option, unless he wanted to become a pariah and the target of constant proselytizing over his “disease.” He would be unimpeachable – get good grades, join the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, be elected captain of the soccer team, date a cheerleader, have straight sex. He bullied kids suspected of being gay, called them “faggots.”
He became the golden boy, hiding in the spotlight…