professional skateboarding’s first openly gay man has come out
Legendary skater Brian Anderson has opened up about the fear and shame he felt being closeted on the pro scene. And why he hopes opening up will make life better for other queer kids.
Skateboarding has always been a haven for outsiders, weirdos and non-conformists. But despite that, it's also largely been seen as a deeply heterosexual environment, where queer identities are often hidden. In a new video for VICE Sports Brian Anderson has begun to crack that hetero shell, coming out as the first openly gay pro skateboarder.
In the piece, Brian — who in 1999 was Thrasher magazine's Skater of the Year and took out the World Cup of Skateboarding — explains why, despite being a legend on the scene, he chose to keep his sexuality secret for most of his life.
While he knew he was gay since childhood, his account of the fear he harboured over telling those around him paints a pretty grim picture of how the scene views the queer community. "Hearing 'faggot' all the time, it made me think at a young age, it was really dangerous to talk about it," he explains. While his close friends and family knew about his sexual orientation, he worked hard to develop a "big tough skateboarder" persona so others wouldn't question it.
The secret took its toll, and saw him try to drown the "pent up aggression and shame" with alcohol. Although he admits that conflict did feed into his skating, "it made me more of an animal on my skateboard."
Coming up in the 90s, he reflects that "People would have perceived it differently if I'd said it 15 years ago." But says now he wants to speak out to help other gay kids in the scene: "A lot of these kids who don't have hope are really scared to death. To hear what I went through, and that everything got better for me, and I got a lot happier and felt more free and didn't have all this shame buried in my body, you become a happier person. So to convey that message is really important to me."
Although for all the attention and praise he's attracted, he has made one thing clear — "I consider myself a skateboarder first, gay second. I'm a skater, that's all I know."
Text Wendy Syfret