(This story was published in 2002).
Andre Espaillat, 46, lives in the Dallas, Texas, area and road-races motorcycles with Championship Cup Series and WERA motorcycle roadracing. He is a three-time regional racing champ. He has been out in his sport for 10 years. With monthly tire bills of $400 and annual expenses of $20,000, he is always looking for corporate and individual sponsorship. He recently agreed to answer some questions from Jim Buzinski.
How long have you been racing?
18 years and I have the X-rays to prove it!
What has been your biggest professional accomplishment?
In 1999, a group of internet friends and I decided to enter the WERA 24 hour race at Willow Springs Raceway in California. This is a tortuous event that starts at noon on a Saturday and ends at noon on Sunday. (There's nothing like the realization at 3 a.m. that you still have to do 150 mph for another eight hours!)
We hatched a plan to enter a "beginner's bike" in the 600 Supersport class. Basically, we were entering a Volkswagen in a NASCAR race, or going hunting with a toothpick.
None of us had ever met in person before, but we all showed up at the designated time from all over the country and raced. To make a long story short, we did well enough that: All the spectators cheered us as we finished the race. We were mentioned in every trade magazine. We got six pages of press with photos in Sport Rider Magazine.
But the best part was the bond that developed between a group of ``strangers'' over our stressful day and a half. We're all buddies for life, and the fact that they're all straight doesn't bother me at all!.
Who is your ``husband,'' how did you two meet and is he also into racing? What are your hobbies and other interests?
Who is my husband? Well, he's in the closet. That's his choice and I respect it in his situation. He's a 26- year old PhD from the South Pacific. He doesn't ride motorcycles, but he supports my efforts and I love him for it (among other things).
Hobbies? I go to the grocery store every once in a while and buy something in the fruit and veggie section that I want to grow, and then I grow it from seed. I have an avocado tree, three mango trees, some pineapples, pomegranate trees, lots of ginger, and an aloe vera that's taking over the house.
Other than that, my regular job as a medical computing nerd keeps me hopping. Teaching racing school, struggling to win championships, and maintaining a stable of racers doesn't leave time for much else, but I have a close group of friends. I'm on the board of directors for Dragonflies of Dallas (a gay Asian/Pacific Islander support and benevolence group). I'm also involved with a group here called HotShotz, which is a gay hand-gunner's group. Yes, gay guys shoot guns and race motorcycles!
Can you tell us a bit about being out. Has it been a problem? What is the reaction of other riders?
Being out has always been a choice with me. I'm an average American guy, able to blend into straight society with ease, so being closeted would have seemed easy. I chose to be out for several reasons (not necessarily in any order):
1) I'm too lazy or stupid to lie well about where I was and what I did over the weekend.
2) I'm proud of my accomplishments and don't feel they would be lessened by an understanding of my nature.
3) I'm proud of my 'husband' and think the whole world should know what a great guy he is.
4) I actually try to make the straight world understand that gays and lesbians are normal humans. We're rare (and sometimes exceptional) humans, but we're just like everyone else when you get down to it.
I've been fortunate that some of my gay `'posse'' has come to the track to watch me race. Having one or two of my more flamboyant friends screaming "You GO, girl!" in the stands is fun, spectacular, and wonderfully educational to other spectators and racers.
99% of the time, I'm just Andre at the track. Racers and spectators deal with me as I am. I'm a race club official and I teach the regional racing school here for new participants. As such, new members see me as one of the `'important people'' or one of ``the fast guys.'' When they eventually figure out I'm gay, through casual conversation, comments from others, or the numerous pride flags on my equipment, they generally treat me the same as they did before.
Interestingly, there is a small group of riders who find me more interesting because I'm gay, fast, and friendly. Certainly, there are those who shy away because I'm `'different,'' but I'm not aware of any time I've ever been denied something because of it. Well, that's a lie....because the guys never ask me go to the titty bars with them. Some denials are blessings!
So, has it been a problem? No. Has it been a benefit? No. Has it been fun, enlightening, life-changing? Yes!