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The Gay Athlete of 'Survivor'

(This story was published in 2006).

By: Ross Forman

Brad Virata was a high school football player who also competed on his school’s track team. He was in a fraternity, Tau Kappa Epsilon, at the University of Washington, and had long-term girlfriends, including cheerleaders, in both high school and college.

“I was trying to play the whole straight role in high school, but was really uncomfortable with my sexuality (while) in high school and my first few years in college,” he said.

Virata came out as a college junior, first telling his dad, Ramon, when the two were together, alone, on a vacation.

“When I came out, I had in the back of my mind that, well, my dad may disown me, that he may not want to ever again speak to me. Thankfully, he just looked me in the eyes and said, ‘You’re my son and I love you no matter what, and I’ll always continue to support you,’” Virata said.

Ramon is now a member of PFLAG. Brad’s mom, Norma, is “very accepting as well,” he said.

Virata, the youngest of five (two older brothers, two older sisters) is the only gay family member. He also has numerous nieces and nephews, “and I have a great relationship with all.”

“For the most part, I haven’t had a bad experience with being gay,” he said. “It actually was a complete shock,” that friends and family were totally accepting about his sexuality.

Virata never got the chance to share his sexuality with the world, though. He is a contestant on the current CBS-TV edition of the hit reality show "Survivor," though he was eliminated mid-way through the season from the $1 million grand prize awarded to the eventual winner.

His sexuality was never revealed on-air, though producers and his fellow castaways knew.

“I wish that my coming-out story had been heard because I thought it was a really cool story. I wanted to represent the Asian community in a positive light, but also wanted to represent the gay and lesbian community in a positive light,” he said. “Quite often in the media, gays are portrayed in a stereotypical way. I didn’t want that and I don’t feel I’m like (the stereotype). I wanted to break the mold a little, to show the rest of America that gays can be athletic, articulate, cool people, on and off the island. We’re not all flamboyant, attention-seekers.

“Ultimately, I think (CBS executives) may have wanted to appeal to a larger demographic of people, specifically, women, thus my sexuality was not revealed.

“I’m not ashamed of being gay, not at all.”

Virata is a “juror” for the final episode of "Survivor," which airs Dec. 17 at 8p.m. ET/PT on CBS.

“'Survivor' was a great experience,” he said. “I learned a lot about myself, what I can and cannot live without. 'Survivor' really put things in check, helps prioritize what’s important. So, in that regards, I’m glad I did it, and I met a ton of great people, made some really great friends. Overall, it was a fantastic experience.”

Virata is the Director of Men’s Merchandising for Lucky Brand Jeans … and he’s single.

“I’m currently single, and I’m willingly interviewing and accepting applications. Just kidding,” he said, laughing. “I just haven’t met the right person, yet. But when I do, Ross; you’ll be the first