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Interview with Brad Usselman, gay high school athlete and blogger

Brad Usselman

Brad Usselman, a Vancouver high schooler, recently (along with two friends) started a blog that is aimed at altering perceptions of LGBTQ athletes. They describe themselves as,

…3 young adults wanting to change the way LGBTQ athletes are viewed in the sports world. All of us are varsity athletes in high school who are on our own paths to being who we truly are. We invite you to take the stand with us and begin walking the road to equality.

Brad, a sophomore, has been on his school’s varsity track and cross country teams since he was a freshman, and his goal is to run for a Division 1 college team. I recently conducted a short interview with him.

Aly Sneider: What specifically inspired you to start the blog?

BU: The thing that inspired me the most to start this blog is wanting to help out the younger generations and make sure that they do not go through the internal struggles of acceptance that I went through. I also wanted to start a community where gay high school athletes are able to go and realize they that they are not alone.

What have reactions from your teammates been like?

I have not openly come out to my teammates yet, but I have heard them stick up for gay marriage before. I will soon be fully coming out to my school, and I expect that my team mates will not care at all.

Do you anticipate any reactions or backlash from opponents?

I have gained respect from all of my main opponents in my league. Some of us are pretty good friends even though we are rivals. We go on runs together and stuff, but i have accepted that i may receive some backlash.

What’s it like, overall, to be an openly gay high school athlete in Vancouver?

Since I am not fully open I do not know yet. My friends and parents have been very accepting though.

Do you think you and your blog are changing attitudes at your school?

The only friend I have talked to about my blog really likes it, but I am not public about my blog at school. I expect people to find out soon though.

How would having openly gay pro/olympic athletes to look up to have helped you as a young gay athlete? When do you think top-level American athletes will begin to come out?

Having openly gay pro/olympic athletes would have been amazing for me while going through middle school. I just wanted to know that there were other people in the world like me. That is one of the reasons why I came up with this idea for the blog. I hope top-level athletes come out soon, but I do not know when.

What was it like to receive a message from [openly gay professional Welsh rugby player] Gareth Thomas?

I was blown away when I saw the video from Gareth Thomas! Back in the summer I watched his interview on “Real Sports” and since then he has always been one of my role models. I wish there were more athletes like him in the world.

Living in Vancouver, do you come down to Portland at all? Has PDX’s general queer friendliness helped you in your coming out process at all? What is the atmosphere towards queer folks like in Vancouver?

I come to Portland all of the time! I met some really good friends at running camp this summer who go to St. Mary’s Academy so we hang out in downtown all of the time. I feel like growing in near a very liberal city has helped but growing up as a gay athlete is hard no matter where you live. The atmosphere is very mixed towards queer people in Vancouver. I hear gay slurs every day at my high school but overall those people are just as accepting as others.

Brad’s blog is a great read, and he and his co-bloggers are doing a lot to bring visibility and a sense of pride to queer athletes, especially those still in high school. There’s already a Facebook group devoted to getting Brad and his friends on Ellen, and hopefully that will become a reality soon.

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