If you told me that I would start a band with my ex-boyfriend of 10 years, after coming out, I wouldn’t believe you. Nonetheless, here I stand today as half of the band TeamMate. We are a synth-pop duo from Los Angeles, and we just released our debut album in February. The album shows where we are right now as a band and chronicles the maturation of our relationship as friends.
In the beginning we were young and everything made sense. Scott and I were best friends, together for 10 years along for a ride of growth and happiness. We lived in a small college town where we both went to school.
Our relationship started off as a friendship. After a few months passed, we started to see each other in a new light, which became the start of our romantic relationship. We spent the first three years taking road trips to used record stores, seeing live music, making mixtapes, hiking, thrift shopping, and making questionable food decisions at 2 a.m. Music brought us together in the very beginning and continued to be a driving force behind our relationship.
We had a great relationship. Of course, we had our issues, but we were so committed to “Dani and Scott” that we were able to work though just about anything. When I made the decision to move to New York City the options were either to break up or figure it out. We chose the latter, and so the long-distance years began.
Distance proved to be difficult, and relationship problems, along with distractions, began to set in. Visits were typically only four to six weeks apart, but they were short. We’d have arguments on the phone, but it was easier to sweep them under the rug so we could just be in the moment with each other. Months, then years, went by, and we were long distance longer than we had been in the same city.
A lot of our problems stemmed from intimacy issues, which triggered many instances of misplaced anger, miscommunication and overall frustrations. Anyone who has questioned their sexuality while within a relationship can understand. Which is why, in retrospect, it was easier to set these problems aside, focus on the good, and deal with it (or not) later. Whenever that is…
Life has a way of forcing you to deal with your avoidances, and with a change of work leading me back to my hometown, Scott and I moved in together. Because that’s what you do when you’ve been partners for almost 10 years. We found a small house in a lively neighborhood, and I signed the lease as anxiety filled my body. It was the first time I had felt such a physical and emotional reaction to what was going on in my head/heart.
Whenever someone comes out, one of the first questions is “When did you know?” Like most people, I find that to be a very difficult question to answer. In retrospect, we can all see the signs or point to behaviors and thoughts that seem pretty obvious. But while you’re in it, all you can really remember is the moment that you can’t hold it in anymore, that you have to tell your truth. Maybe that’s the same moment you tell the truth to yourself, maybe it’s the moment that you physically can’t keep the secret anymore. I think the moment I signed that lease was the moment I really “knew.” However, the moment I came out happened a little later.
In what should have been an exciting time, the two of us grew a little more distant and our relationship began to strain. The night I came out was a familiar scene for us. It was a tense evening, and we were in the middle of what had become a typical “fight.” We’d argue in circles until it was over, but on this night, I felt the words come out of me: “I think I’m gay.” And in an instant, the tension was cut and the relief set in. I had never said it out loud before and once I heard my own voice, I knew I found my truth. Scott responded with compassion and acceptance — no judgment. I am forever grateful for that. Of course, there were lots of questions, some of which I didn’t have the answers to yet. That night, we went to bed with some sadness, understanding, and an openness we never really had before.
We made a pact that we would remain in each other’s lives. We didn’t know what that would look like and it wasn’t an easy process. Scott moved to Los Angeles and I remained in Pittsburgh. The distance gave us the space we needed to heal and allowed us to break the habits and routines in our dynamic as a couple. We worked extremely hard to remain respectful and compassionate toward each other. At the core of it all, we had an incredible friendship and we knew that if we could get back to that, we’d be OK.
We never really played music together as a couple. It was always a separate space where we could have our own individual identities and experiences. After the breakup, Scott had a few solo gigs lined up and asked me to sit in on drums. It was a new experience for both of us but immediately felt special and comfortable. Soon after, and with a series of “Should we do this?” conversations, we formed TeamMate and I found myself moving to Los Angeles. A very roundabout way to form a band, but it somehow feels like this is what we were supposed to be together, all along.
The band is just the two of us and from the beginning existed as an outlet of expression and therapy. We can communicate in a way we hadn’t been able to before. In the context of music and lyrics, we’re able to say things to each other that wouldn’t necessarily have a voice otherwise. We are closer than we’ve ever been, and I am so proud of our partnership.
DANI BUNCHER is one half of the band TeamMate. Click here for more info on the group.