26-Jul, 05:31

23:57, September 28 146 0

2016-09-28 23:57:05
Brian Anderson, Skateboarding Star, Comes Out as Gay

Last week, Brian Anderson, a professional skateboarder known for his powerful and aggressive style, told his 40,000-plus Instagram followers to prepare themselves for a forthcoming video. When it was released, on Tuesday, it shared something that most people had never heard.

“My name is Brian Anderson, I’m a professional skateboarder, and we are here to talk about the fact that I am gay,” Mr. Anderson, 40, said in a video posted on Vice Sports.

With those words, Mr. Anderson, who lives in Queens, became skateboarding’s first openly gay professional and joined the steady trickle of athletes who have come out over the last few years. Shortly after the video was posted, social media blew up with affirmations and support.

The outpouring of hearts and hashtags came from obvious sources, like fellow pro skaters and sponsors like Nike, but also from broader popular culture. Andy Cohen, the host of the Bravo network’s “Watch What Happens Live,” tweeted: “major skateboarder came out today and the community saluted him. amazing story and BRAVO, Brian Anderson!!!”

“Life’s too short to hold this stuff in,” Mr. Anderson said in an interview Wednesday afternoon.

For all its countercultural cool, skateboarding has historically been party to the same kinds of homophobia found in other male-dominated institutions. Until fairly recently, many skate parks had a certain locker-room feel, with gay slurs and insensitive jokes. There is even a 1980s-era trick called the Gay Twist, a homophobic reference to it being “the gay way” of performing a particular kind of aerial.

More recently, skateboarding culture has shifted. There have been skateboard graphics celebrating gay marriage and magazine articles questioning why so few skaters are out.

“The whole community has changed and evolved,” said Jon Humphries, a photographer and friend of Mr. Anderson’s, in an interview.

Mr. Anderson may not be a household name, but in the world of skateboarding he is a superstar. He has a list of elite sponsors and in 1999 was named Thrasher Magazine’s Skater of the Year.

Throughout Vice’s half-hour video, several fellow professionals said they were excited about the prospect of him coming out because his untouchable career and lofty status made him an ideal subject to erase whatever bigotry remains in the sport.

“B.A. is like someone who, a lot of people, that’s their favorite skater,” Ed Templeton, a professional skateboarder, told Vice. “All the kids who were sitting there at home thinking, like, ‘Wait, my favorite skater is gay?’ would be forced to decide: What does that matter?”

For some time, Mr. Anderson’s sexuality has been known in the skate world. Friends and industry insiders have been aware for more than a decade, and rumors that he may be gay have been a frequent topic of discussion in skateboard corners of the internet.

Last March, during a skate contest in Tampa, Fla., Giovanni Reda, a friend and director, asked Mr. Anderson if he was ready to come out more widely.

“At first he was a little apprehensive, and I was like, ‘Dude, there is probably a kid here right now who is gay,” Mr. Reda said in an interview. “‘How amazing would that be for a kid like him?’”

Mr. Anderson said he took some time to think about it. He knew he could make life easier for closeted teenagers and other skaters, he said. Also, he said, he was just tired of hiding.

“I wanted to be able to post pictures in my Instagram if I wanted to,” he said in the phone interview. “I can post pictures, I can hold my boyfriend’s hand walking down the street and give him a kiss on the subway and just live life.”

Mr. Anderson grew up in Connecticut and went from unknown to skate-famous after a standout part in a 1996 skate video called “Welcome to Hell.” Respect and sponsorships followed, but he kept his sexuality a secret.

Being gay may be easier today, he added in the interview, but it’s still not easy.

“We still have to be careful when we go out there,” Mr. Anderson said. “I wanted to at least give my two cents to help folks that are going through it.”

Mr. Anderson stands 6-foot-3 — huge for a skateboarder — and the Vice video begins with fellow skaters describing him with superlatives such as “burly like a monster human being that was just like the most manliest figure I’ve ever seen.” It intersperses interviews with him and other skaters with a highlight reel of his best tricks.

There is the story of an awkward moment with a high school girlfriend. There is the teenage assumption that his attraction to men would eventually go away. At one point he planned on attending culinary school.

“I just basically thought that what was going to happen with my life is I would grow older, find a career, peace out and go live in the middle of nowhere and maybe start trying to meet a guy,” he said. “And I would never tell my family, I would never tell anyone, and I would just live in the middle of nowhere.”

Instead he moved to California and became a pro skater. He kept his sexuality hidden for fear it would kill his burgeoning career, and the video suggests that skateboarding wasn’t ready for a gay skater when Mr. Anderson came up in the mid-1990s.

The video provides an important piece of context, which skaters would understand but others may not: Mr. Anderson made his career on the daredevil edge of the sport. Skaters exist along a spectrum that runs from people who are technical, which means they flip their board a lot, and people who “go big,” which means they jump off tall things.

Mr. Anderson excels in both realms, exacting a toll of physical punishment that he attributed to inner rage. “I think a part of me was so irritated and angry from holding that in, so it made me more of an animal on my skateboard,” he told Vice.

He came out after a friend bumped into him on a date in downtown San Francisco. Mr. Anderson had lied and told his roommates he was leaving town for the day. There was also the time he was at the Eagle, a gay bar in Portland, Ore., when a fellow skateboarder recognized him. Over time, as he came out to friends in the industry, the response was universally positive and supportive.

In case anyone is wondering, and a lot of skaters apparently were, according to the video, Mr. Anderson is not attracted to the skate physique. He said he liked men who look like Bluto, the bearded, barrel-chested villain from Popeye cartoons.

“I’m super into leather and uniforms,” he said Wednesday. “I love, love, love cops.”