Coming Out Story

Taking Chances - Brandon R

My story

I'd like to start my blog off with a lesson. When you are presented with an opportunity, no matter the outcome, take it. For those who believe we only live once, chances are meant to be taken.

Elementary/High School

I am originally from a small town in Southwest Wisconsin called Boscobel with a population of about 2500 people. My graduating class was only 72 people. The beginning of my story starts in late elementary school. I remember standing in line at recess when 3 girls were going down the line and asking boys if they would date their friend Jill. They stopped at me, and like the other boys, I said "no." I thought to myself, I didn't say no because the other boys said no, it was something different. It didn't feel right. There was something that wasn't clicking with my feelings for girls. Fast forward through middle school and to my sophomore year of high school. I had a girlfriend who lived in a different city but her father was my neighbor. We saw each other on the weekends and we told each other everything. Let's be honest though, she was my best friend. We dated for a year and half and never had sex. She actually told people we had sex because we had been together for so long. I knew when we were dating that girls were not for me. All the guys were dating girls so I felt I had to as well. The two women who identified as lesbian in our school were bullied so much that I would never admit to being gay. My girlfriend and I eventually broke up with I came out to her as bisexual. After telling her, I told a small group of my closest friends. I'd get bullied in high school and my step siblings would be asked all the time if I was gay and they would always stick up for me. I never really had an issue with classmates in my grade, it was always a year or two younger than me. I'd be walking down the hall and they would push me into the lockers and call me a faggot. That was about the extent to the bullying. My friends always had my back and a few of my classmates did as well.

I had other not-so-great experiences while in high school though. During my senior year of high school I had been friends with this guy in the grade below me. We would go to lunch every so often and see each other in band where we both played 2nd Trumpet. We were in choir, jazz band, and mallet choir together as well. He played on the football team and I played more band. I decided I needed to tell him how I felt. He was my first male crush. I wrote an anonymous letter and left my phone number on it. I didn't write anything dirty but that I thought he was a cool guy and if he wanted to go to a movie sometime to text me. I had a friend deliver it to him. Later that night I was at job and the person who delivered it to him came in all frantic. He told me his parents called him and made him tell them who wrote the letter. They told him if he didn't tell them, they would press charges. The next day in class, I was asked to leave and see our guidance counselor. I remember sitting down and she asked if I knew why I was there and I nodded no. She said that a student and his parents received an anonymous letter from a student and asked if I had written it. I of course said that I had written the letter. She went on to talk about how she felt at our age, mind you I'm 17 at this point, that we didn't know our true sexual identity. Finally, she started to talk about sexual orientation and I blanked it out. I remember being furious! You're the guidance counselor and you're trying to tell me that at the age of 17 years old I don't know my true identity. I no longer felt like I could confide in her for the rest of my senior year.

After this had all taken place, I knew I had to tell my family. My mom came to pick me up after work one evening.

Me: “Mom, I have to tell you something.”
Mom: “What’s that honey?”
Me: “Mom, I think I like girls…and guys.”
Mom: “Oh…well when I was your age, I thought I like girls too. I just don’t think you really know what your preference is until you’re much older.”

Why is everyone telling me at the age of 17 that I do not know what my sexual orientation is? I didn’t tell anyone else after that. I couldn’t bare to hear someone deny me of who I am.

2 Steps Forward - 1 Giant Step Back

I graduated high school in 2005 and went to a local community college where I felt out and proud. I was elected student body president in 2007-2008 and enacted the Day of Silence. The Day of Silence is in held in April each year and is a student led event where folks take a vow of silence to highlight the silencing that LGBTQ+ people face every day of their lives. We had a few students protest the day and spoke to the council about punishing students for not speaking. It didn’t get far as the administration was very supportive of my efforts. Throughout my college career I lived at home with my mom but kept my distance. She tried so many times to have a conversation with me regarding my news I had told her. She would start to talk to me about it and I would get up and leave in my car to go hang out with friends. How could I confide in someone who didn’t support who I was and just thought it was a phase? In May 2008 just before graduating from my associate’s degree, my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. I took a step back from searching for a career and decided to focus on helping my mom and perusing my bachelor’s degree. My mom passed in August of 2008. I regret every day not taking the opportunity to just listen to what my mom had to say. I would never give her the time of day and would just leave without letting her finish. I’ll never know what she wanted to say to me. I can only hope that she would have said she loved me no matter what and that she supported me 100%.

Family Support

Back tracking a little to Christmas Eve 2006. I was with my dad, step mother, and step siblings at a Christmas gathering. Step sister, Heather and I were very close. We were in the same grade and would always support each other fully and tell each other everything. We had our own friend groups but we remained close.

Thinking back, I believe it was because of Heather and my older step brother Jonny as to why I felt safe and like in my grade and those above mine. They supported me and would stop people if they started to talk bad about me.

Heather and I rode together to the family Christmas gathering and we decided that today was going to be the day I tell my dad and step mom that I am gay. That’s right, I stopped hiding behind the bisexual world and came out as gay. My dad and step mother were going outside to go have a cigarette and Heather text me and said let’s go. I text her back that it wasn’t time. As my dad and step mom walked to the door, Heather announces that she was going to go with and said

Brandon, don’t you have to come too?
I replied, “Nope, I’m good.

And Heather grabbed me and walked me out. My dad and step mom started talking about other family gatherings and the gifts they had gotten and Heather announced that I had to tell them something. I nodded my head no and acknowledged that I didn’t have anything. Heather looked at me with a side eye and I looked at my dad and step mom and just flat out said,

I’m gay.

They both looked at me and sort of chuckled and said,

“We know. We’ve known for about 7 years.”
I laughed and said, “Well, you’ve known longer than me.”

They expressed how much they loved me and that they would love me no matter what.

Taking Chances

We laid my mom to rest in August of 2008. I became very close with my grandmother and aunts, moved to Platteville, WI to pursue my bachelor’s degree and completed that in 2011 and eventually moved to Madison in 2013. I found an art form that help express my identity and made me feel alive. I had always enjoyed plays and musicals but knew I didn’t have the talents or the voice to do so. Drag has allowed me to express myself in a way that I never thought I could feel. I’ve found a sense of community in drag and I’ve met some really great people in the 5 years I’ve been enjoying this art form. My family is very supportive and they often attend my shows throughout Wisconsin and cheer me on in pageants that I compete in.
Losing my mother really opened my eyes to my future; she was only 47 years old when she passed. She always said she saw a bright future for me. I’ve since lived by taking risks and taking chances. If I hadn’t taken the chance to move to Madison, I don’t know where I would be. Because I did take the chance, I’ve since become a well-known local drag celebrity where I host my own shows all throughout Madison venues and travel Madison. I’m currently the co-president and on the board of directors for Madison’s LGBTQ+ Advocacy group called Out Professional Engagement Network. I’ve excelled in my career, and I’m in my 7th season with the Madison Gay Hockey Association.

Though my story isn’t all that bad I hope that your take away from my experience is to go with your heart. Take risks and take chances because you only live once.

My key takeaway

If I hadn't taken risks or taken opportunities that may have not sounded right in the first place I would later find out that it was the best decision I could make. Take chances because you never know when your time is up.

If I could go back in time I would tell myself

I know it seems like she's trying to pry into your life but just sit and listen to your mother. She's your mother and she loves you no matter what and will always support you fully.

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