Professional skateboarder Brian Anderson made history on Tuesday by becoming the first openly gay athlete to compete in his sport at the mainstream level. The 40-year-old opened up about his sexuality during a video interview with Vice magazine.
Anderson said that for a long time, he used boarding to hide from his sexual orientation.
“I used skateboarding to not think about that,” he explained. “I knew I couldn’t go and meet some dude, or something, I was terrified of somebody seeing me doing that. I kind of consider myself a skateboarder first and gay second. … I’m a skater, that’s all I know.”
In truth, Anderson has known from a very young age. As a toddler, he was drawn to men’s facial hair and later Bluto from the Popeye cartoons.
“Something about that told me, ‘That’s right. I like that,’” Anderson said.
As a kid, the homophobic bullying he witnessed at school encouraged him to keep his sexuality a secret. “Hearing ‘faggot’ all the time,” Anderson said, “made me feel at a really young age that it was dangerous to talk about it.”
Anderson, who went pro in 1998, feared for a long time that he would be outed, but claimed that his profession shielded him from having to answer unwanted questions about his private life. “I was a big tough skateboarder,” Anderson said, adding: “I figured it out how to balance it to where nobody questioned it.”
Instead of coming out sooner, the sportsman remained in the closet.
“People ask, ’Why are you doing this now and not earlier?’” he told Vice. “It would have been a lot more beneficial. … I was really scared, and people would have perceived it a lot differently, I think, had I said this 15 years ago.”
Although he regrets not coming out sooner, Anderson said that remaining closeted had one positive benefit: It made him a better athlete. The skater, who is currently repped by Nike and Spitfire, was awarded Thrasher’s Skater of the Year in 1999, as well as the World Cup of Skateboarding title the same year.
“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 claimed.
By coming out, Anderson follows in the footsteps of athletes Tim Von Werne and Jerrett Berry, two openly gay skateboarders who have attempted to make a dent in a sport defined by heterosexual masculinity.
Berry, who never reached Anderson’s level of success, graced the cover of Big Brother in 2002, a skateboarding publication that folded two years later. Von Werne was effectively forced out of the sport in 1998 following a coming out interview with Skateboarder magazine. His sponsor squashed the story before it went to print.
Anderson explained that he’s coming out now to offer hope to LGBT youth who may be confused or struggling with their sexuality.
“I think about how I felt when I was younger, totally scared — a lot of these kids don’t have hope,” he said. “To hear what I went through and how everything got better for me and how I felt a lot happier and felt more free and didn’t have all this shame buried inside my body… to convey that message was really important to me.”
Watch Brian Anderson's interview with Vice below.