A double life: Sex, Aaron Hernandez and the limits of culture

Aaron Hernandez in 2011. Photograph by Jack Newton.

Aaron Hernandez in 2011. Photograph by Jack Newton.

Now it all makes sense – the drug-taking, the trigger macho culture and, perhaps most important, the revelation of bisexuality.

Suicide, as I wrote about the hanging death of former New England Patriots’ tight end Aaron Hernandez, always begs the question, Why? But those of us who believe passionately in reason – that there is an answer for everything, no matter how unknowable it may seem at the moment – knew there had to be more to the murder of Odin Lloyd, and Hernandez’s life in prison sentence for it, than the company they kept and any perceived disrespect within their gang culture.

We now learn that police have been investigating whether Hernandez killed Lloyd ultimately to prevent him from revealing the football star’s bisexuality.

Hernandez, whose suicide three days after Easter adopted the attitude of the crucified Jesus – he had scrawled the verse of John 3:16 on his forearm and the marks of the stigmata, or Crucifixion wounds, in red pen on his hands and feet – had left notes for his fiancée, their daughter and the prison boyfriend now on suicide watch. The prison boyfriend is no indication of gayness. People often engage in what is described as “situational homosexuality” in the absence of the opposite sex. But the longtime boyfriend from high school, on whom Hernandez reportedly settled money, is a different matter. It is that relationship that Hernandez may have been protecting, along with his sexual identity, when he silenced Lloyd – a semipro player who had been dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancée.

“Hernandez was a product of Latino macho culture in which homosexuality is not accepted, specially if you are a football player religious jock,” Jarago posted to the Towleroad site.

The second part of this statement is particularly apt: Though we talk a good game in the United States, we are still not wholly accepting of the LGBTQ community. Football, perhaps the most traditionally male but also the most homoerotic of sports, is especially unforgiving. How long did the openly gay Michael Sam last in the NFL? Not very (one preseason with the St. Louis Rams and a practice squad with the Dallas Cowboys before he headed off to the Canadian Football League.) Apparently, he wasn’t good enough for the NFL. But then, I’m sure everyone breathed a sigh of relief that he wasn’t good enough.

Hernandez was both too good and not good enough. He had the talent for football but not the temperament or the character for life in a fishbowl. His body is set for burial Monday from his native Bristol, Conn. His brain has gone to Boston University to be studied for the effects of CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopothy), which can result from multiple concussions or subconcussive hits sustained on the gridiron.

No amount of dissection, however, may ever completely explain Hernandez’s acts of murder and suicide. Others in his circumstances might’ve chosen differently. But we need a continuing surgical analysis of society if we ever hope to understand our inability to accept those who may be different from us.