Justin Rabon and Brad Neumann, both members of the University of Minnesota’s track team, have also been boyfriends for more than two years.
Both Division I sprinters at one point on Minnesota’s track team, the fierce competitors hardly embody femininity or flamboyancy. Instead, they said their teammates have rationalized the duo’s normality with the general reaction of, “oh, I guess anyone can be gay.”
Neumann and Rabon’s love story is not society’s fairy tale. But it’s their fairy tale. And one that they both hope can shatter stereotypes and save other closeted and misunderstood LGBT people struggling to come to terms with their sexual orientation or be accepted by their peers and loved ones. That’s why they both decided to pen essays at the start of Pride Month in Outsports, a destination for coming-out stories and in some cases, a lifeline url for those deeply struggling beneath the surface.
Neumann and Rabon’s love story started in late 2014. It was Thanksgiving time, and both athletes were down in the dumps emotionally. Rabon, who hails from Milwaukee and was running at the University of Wisconsin at the time, texted Neumann, a friend who he had run against in high school and beat in the 200-meter state title due to a false start. Never fully confronting his sexuality before, Rabon eventually told Neumann he was gay. The response from his seemingly straight friend? “Oh, that’s cool.” Shortly thereafter, Neumann told Rabon he was gay, too. Likewise, he had never told anybody his secret before, mostly due to growing up in the small rural farm town of Peshtigo, Wis., where being gay would’ve potentially cast him out as a leper.
After coming out to each other together, the decision to come out to their friends and families came easier. As did telling their teammates at Minnesota, eventually.
“After we came out to each other, we finally had someone to relate to,” Rabon said. “That changed everything.”
Neumann, who took a bit longer to come out to others, said that being his true self “allowed me to have an open conversation with my teammates, who I knew were conservative or didn’t necessarily believe in gay rights.”
“I think having them personally know me has changed their views,” Neumann said. “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.”