Closeted Gay Athlete In Small Town Finds Hope in Will & Grace. “That Show Saved My Life.”

by Brandon Hines

Being a minority and also being a gay male, you feel like the world is against you.

My name is Brandon Hines. I’m from Dublin, Georgia.

When I was about, I would say 10 or so years old, I was very masculine, very into sports. I was the typical boy. I had a cousin who was fairly feminine, and he would play with the dolls. He would hang out with the girls all the time, gossip, et cetera. And my family would always compare him to me. They would always say, “Why don’t you act like Brandon? He likes sports. He’s into shoes. He hangs out with the boys. He’s tough, never cries, et cetera.” And I just knew mentally we were pretty much the same person, essentially. So that is kind of what pushed me more into the closet and made me think that, for one, I wasn’t actually gay, and for two, being gay wasn’t normal.

The way that society and that also my friends and family had shaped being gay did not equal being masculine. So I never put those two together. And I always felt like I had to put myself in a box, meaning that you could either be masculine and straight or feminine and gay. It started making me feel like I was cursed because I never knew, or I never had saw, and I never heard of someone being gay and being happy. I didn’t think that existed. Especially me being masculine, it was like none of the variables were just adding up essentially. So it made me kind of start losing hope.

Most of my friends would resort to, “Oh, what are we going to do after school today? Where are we going to go to skate, et cetera.” And I was thinking, “When am I going to be happy, basically?”

I grew up in a trailer, and for those people who aren’t aware, trailers are very susceptible to damage whenever there’s a storm. So I had an uncle who stayed in an apartment complex, and they were, of course, brick. Whenever we would go to my uncle’s house for a storm, it was also the time that me and my siblings could watch TV like MTV, all of those channels that we didn’t have access to growing up.

My uncle was handicapped, so he would always be in the living room. And he had a bedroom, and, of course, he couldn’t get in the bed unless he had assistance. So whenever my mom and my sisters would go over there, they would stay in the living room and watch whatever he was watching, like Seinfeld, et cetera. And, I would sneak off to the back because I’m a masculine guy. I’m a kid. They’re thinking I’m watching football, et cetera, and most of the time I was.

But one day, I got curious, and I’m like, “I want to see what else is on TV.” I want to scroll through. I want to see things I can’t normally see at home. And then I remember seeing Will & Grace on the guide. And I’m like, “Okay, this seems kind of interesting.” So, I clicked on it, and I just remember seeing guys, and I just knew they were gay. I just knew these are my people. And it sounds so random, but I felt so guilty for watching that and being happy while I was watching that to a point where I would go back into the living room to make sure everyone was still paying attention to what they were watching and then come back. The feeling that came over me was just like I had just been reborn again. And it just shedded light that I could actually be happy and have friends and have a solid life, have a house, have a nice job and all of that, and still be gay.

I lived in a very remote town, so I’d have to go like 15 minutes or so to get a haircut. I would have my mom drop me off, and she would say, “I can come pick you up right after you get done.” I’m like, “No, I’ll just walk to my Uncle Jimmy’s house. It’s fine. I’ll be over there for an hour or two. Don’t rush,” or whatever, just so I can watch that show.

Not to be dramatic or anything like that, but I think that show almost saved my life in a sense, just because it gave me that hope in that…  I may not be happy now, I may not be comfortable with who I am now, but I know one day I will be. That also put a fire behind me, knowing that I had to get away. So I knew I was going to be happy, but I knew I probably wasn’t going to be happy living there.

Whenever I went to college, I knew that I couldn’t make it back home. I knew I couldn’t go back home. That was never an option because I knew the things I would hear back home that wasn’t what happiness looked like. So it helped me keep my head focused in school. It helped me be very diligent with my work. And it eventually got me comfortable to a point where I came out to my sister just because I had started transitioning to that happiness, I guess you can say.

After I graduated school with a degree in marketing, I moved around a little bit. Then I ended up in Austin. And my goal here, and I was dead set on it, was joining a gay flag football league. It was really one of the reasons why I picked this city was because they had that. Even the league itself helped me become even more comfortable because, within the league, it’s a lot of guys like me. And that’s the prize, I guess you can say, that I got, and that’s the hope that I have been looking for really my whole life up until this point. So, not to be dramatic or anything, but it’s true.

Being a minority and also being a gay male, you feel like the world is against you. I want other guys like me that are masculine living in that small town hiding their sexuality to know there’s happiness out there. You may just have to work a little bit harder than your peers.

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