Go, gay Golden Gophers!
Justin Rabon and Brad Neumann, both members of the University of Minnesota’s track team, have also been boyfriends for more than two years.
Their love story began over Thanksgiving break in 2014 when the unhappy athletes, who were attending different colleges but had become friends while racing against each other during high school in Wisconsin, began texting.
After Rabon nervously told Neumann that he was gay, Neumann responded that he was gay too—and they started dating shortly thereafter. After coming out to each other, they both found it easier to finally come out to their friends, families, and eventually teammates.
Once they had become a couple, Rabon transferred to Minnesota to be closer to Neumann. “I decided to start everything new and not be this secretive person, so the friends I made knew everything about me from the get-go,” Rabon writes in his essay. “I couldn’t go through the feeling of being someone other than myself any longer.”
“I’ve just realized that people can see through a facade if you are putting one up,” he continues, “and once the real you is able to be seen, everyone will notice and nothing can stop you.”
In his own essay, Neumann details how he initially turned to athletics in an effort to hide his sexuality. “I thought I could abolish the gay in me by excelling at sports,” he writes. “In part, it did the trick: Every medal I won transformed anyone’s thoughts of me being gay into affirmation of me being straight.”
But the homophobic jokes in the locker room added to Neumann’s feelings of isolation, which ultimately led to him opening up to Rabon on the phone. “We would talk for hours about everything, each of us being 100% ourselves for the first time in our entire lives,” Neumann continues. “I love my family, friends, and teammates, but they cannot relate to the things closeted gay athletes go through.”
The couple tells USA Today that their decision to go public with their relationship was like a “second coming out experience.” They hope that being honest with their college teammates, who have been largely accepting, will shatter LGBT stereotypes and help others who are struggling with their sexuality.
“It’s so important to get to know all types of people,” Rabon says. “You can’t generalize one person. That’s how bigoted people are.”
“I think having them personally know me has changed their views,” says Neumann of his teammates. “And now, when they go around to the next person who doesn’t believe someone who is LGBT should have the same rights, they’ll say, ’actually, I know Justin and Brad.’ It’s about changing minds like that.”