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How Adam Rippon's 5th-Grade Sexual Awakening Led to His Coming Out

When Adam Rippon Knew It Was Time to Come Out

My first crush on a boy was on Brad in the fifth grade, though I certainly didn’t know it was a crush at the time. It was the early days of the internet and he would print out porn pictures from his dial-up connection and bring them into school in a Lisa Frank folder. It was mostly just titties and stuff, but a few of the boys in class, Brad, and I would go to a quiet part of the playground, open up the folder, and look at these pages of porn.

Hell, if you told me now, as an openly gay adult, that you had a Lisa Frank folder full of boob photos, I’d probably be just as excited about it as I was then.

There was one picture in particular of a girl sitting on top of a guy, but his whole body was obscured. The only thing you could see was his dick. I thought it was so big — considering the only thing I had to compare it to was my fifth-grade-size dick — that there was no way this could be a human penis. The woman in the photo was holding it with two hands, and I remember I said to Brad, “What’s that?” convinced it was a pole she was holding to help stabilize herself from falling over due to the weight of her extreme breasts.

“That’s a dick,” he said.

“Oh,” I answered, a little confused.

“Is that the part you like the most?” he asked.

“No,” I said, almost reflexively.

He didn’t say anything for a moment, and then he said, “OK.” But in my mind, I knew what my real answer was.

Every day I would go to school and there was one thing I wanted to do and that was look at porn with Brad. Looking back, I don’t think it was the porn I really wanted, but to be with Brad, to have this deep sexual secret with him no one else knew about. He told us all that we should go home and move the skin on our penises really fast and it would feel really good. The first time I did this, I did it to completion and had my first orgasm. I thought I was going to have to be rushed to the emergency room because something had gone terribly wrong. It was a sexual awakening. I felt like I was living in an episode of HBO’s Real Sex, maybe even the episode I accidentally recorded over my parents’ VHS wedding video.

The one thing I didn’t want was to be gay. My family was always accepting of gay people, I knew gay people growing up, and I certainly worked with some in figure skating. But I always thought, That’s not me. It just can’t be me. I can’t be this thing that people made fun of me for when I was little. I can’t be this thing that I know isn’t accepted in my area.

Even when hate isn’t directed explicitly toward you, you can feel it in the air, like some corrosive mist that you can’t wash off. I also had some irrational fears about coming out. I always thought that once I did, I would get beaten up, which has never happened. I also worried about losing my family. I had heard plenty of stories about people coming out who’d lost everyone close to them, and being alone. That’s what is so scary about having a secret — you never know how people will feel about it until you finally tell them.

Growing up I always had these massive crushes on girls, and they were almost always these beautiful, outgoing people. Basically it was like an early form of diva worship. I think that’s what made coming out a little bit harder because I had legitimate feelings for other girls, and in my mind, being gay meant you thought girls were disgusting.

I always thought, I don’t think they’re disgusting. I don’t know — maybe I’m not gay.

If I’m being 100 percent honest, the reason I wasn’t having sex with the girls that I had dated was because I thought I was being a good guy. I didn’t want to pressure them or make them go too far. I would go so far as to watch straight porn all the time, as if it were some kind of test. If I could get off watching just two women having sex, then I had to be straight. But, come on. I was 20 years old. I could get a boner if the wind hit my pants.

There was definitely gay porn in the mix too, but I would tell myself, “I just think that humans are beautiful. Everyone’s a little bit gay.”

I mean, am I wrong? Everyone is a little bit gay — it’s just that I was a lot bit gay. Like entirely gay.

I finally realized this when I met Scotty. He was a choreographer working with one of my friends in Detroit. He was about five years older than me, tall, funny, and with a smoking body.

He was also openly gay.

He spent some time with my group while he was in Detroit, and he was flirting with me hard-core. I was also definitely flirting back, even though I wasn’t sure he knew that I knew that we were flirting. Being gay is so hard!

Before this, when watching gay porn, I would think I was just bi-curious, that I was “just a sexual person,” even though I hadn’t had sex with anyone in my entire life at that point. (I love going back and listening to the reasoning of me in my early 20s.) So when I started flirting with Scotty, I realized almost all at once that I might be more than just bi-curious. That was the deeper realization. Once I came to that conclusion, I knew exactly what had to happen going forward. I knew I really wanted to physically do things with Scotty, and this was the first time I’d felt this way.

There wasn’t really an option. The seas parted and I knew I had to come out.

Excerpted from the book BEAUTIFUL ON THE OUTSIDE: A MEMOIR by Adam Rippon. Copyright © 2019 by Adam Rippon. Reprinted with permission of Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.

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