“I thought I could abolish the gay in me by excelling at sports.”
Justin Rabon and Brad Neumann are athletes representing the University of Minnesota’s track team.
They are also both gay and have been together for more than two years.
Now they have told their story in two very personal essay for OutSports, to celebrate Pride month.
Rabon and Neumann had met in high school already – although at that point, they were still opponents and did not know about each other.
‘At first, we didn’t know each other was gay,’ Neumann said.
‘In fact, I just knew him as Justin, the kid who unrightfully took my 200-meter state title because I false started.’
Their love story finally started in late 2014, around Thanksgiving, when they came out to each other via text – first Rabon, and then Neumann replied by also coming out.
‘We would talk for hours about everything, each of us being 100% ourselves for the first time in our entire lives,’ Neumann said.
‘At first we were just friends, talking freely and getting to know each other, but I started to care more and more for this man every day.
‘He made it possible for me to be happy again. He gave me a reason to smile.’
Shortly after coming out to each other, the couple started dating.
It was a long-distance relationship at first.
While Neumann ran for Minnesota’s Golden Gophers, Rabon was at the University of Wisconsin – but not for long, because he transferred to his boyfriend’s university.
‘The move to Minnesota was the “fresh start” I’d always seen on television shows and movies, but I didn’t realize was an actual thing,’ he said.
‘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. I couldn’t go through the feeling of being someone other than myself any longer.’
Now, two-and-a-half years later, they run together instead of against each other.
‘We are still together, we are still in love, we are both out, and we are both proud of who we are,’ Neumann said.
‘He has pushed me beyond the limits I thought were possible for myself and has shown me that no matter where you come from and what your circumstances are, you deserve to be happy and real with yourself.’
And while their teammates were really positive about having not just gay athletes, but a gay couple on their team, Neumann said it is still important the couple have each other.
‘I love my family, friends, and teammates, but they cannot relate to the things closeted gay athletes go through,’ he said.
‘I have gotten almost universally positive feedback from all of them, but I really owe all of my contentment in my life to Justin. Without him, I would still be living a lie to everyone around me, including myself.’
And Rabon echoed the sentiment in his essay, too.
‘I’ve just realized that people can see through a facade if you are putting one up,’ he said.
‘And once the real you is able to be seen, everyone will notice and nothing can stop you.’