Brian Anderson was named Thrasher magazine's "Skater of the Year" in 1999, the same year he won the World Cup of Skateboarding in Germany. During that time, as he was becoming an icon to skateboarders around the globe, he was hiding the fact that he was gay so that he wouldn't potentially sabotage his pro skateboarding career.
In a new "Vice Sports" documentary with Giovanni Reda, Anderson discusses being gay publicly for the first time. "Hearing faggot all the time, it made me think at a young age, it was really dangerous to talk about it," he explains while being interviewed in his Queens, New York apartment, later adding that although many friends and family knew he tried to hide it publicly: "I was really scared. People would have perceived it differently if I'd said it 15 years ago."
Reda interviews other pro skaters such as Omar Salazar and Frank Gerwer who describe Anderson as "burly, like a monster," "the most manliest figure I've ever seen" and "badass." And Anderson admits it was his outward demeanor and perception that kept his sexuality hidden to many. "I was a big, tough skateboarder," Anderson says. "They're not gonna question that. Nobody thought anything."
One friend says she saw Anderson "drown his shame in booze," and he reveals that he did have "pent up aggression and shame" that "drove me to do crazy stuff."
"A part of me was so irritated and angry from holding that in," Anderson says. "So it made me more of an animal on my skateboard."
Despite waiting until now to publicly discuss his sexuality, Anderson says he knew something was different when he was three or four and that he loved Bluto from Popeye cartoons. "I thought Bluto was so perfect with that flannel shirt and that beard; I was all about Bluto," he says. "I like that character, which is funny – because that's what I like now."
He also says he was never attracted to other skateboarders and enjoyed when cops would kick skaters out of spots. "I was like, 'Yay, I get to check somebody out.' It gave me a smile the rest of the day."
Ed Templeton, founder of Toy Machine Skateboards, says people in the skateboarding community knew for years and when rumors surfaced, he would get phone calls. "The whole industry knew, but people loved Brian so much, it really didn't get out," Templeton says, explaining that he would have thought it was "awesome" and tried to promote Anderson as the first high-profile gay skater (Jarrett Berry and Tim Von Werne came out but were considered more marginal to the sport).
Early on, Anderson was working 70 hours a week as a line cook and imagined he might go to culinary school and eventually "grow older, peace out and live in the middle of nowhere and never tell my family or anyone." But after he received acclaim, he says he felt more secure, since he had accolades that couldn't be taken away. "I consider myself a skateboarder first, gay second," he says. "I'm a skater, that's all I know."
Watch the full documentary below: