37 - Ben Anderson
Identifies as Male (he/him)
Colorado Springs, CO
Dad. Hairdresser. Fabulous Woman on the Weekends - Gemini Skye.
With the infinite possibilities of gender identity and expression, when did you know….
“I kind of felt growing up when I was really young that I maybe, possibly might not have been fully a boy… it was really weird for me when I was young, because I knew that I liked boy things, but I also liked girl things. It was really weird for me because I didn’t know what was right, and what was wrong. My parents, looking back on it, they were pretty cool… they never said anything, but they never really bashed me too much. Like if we were in the McDonald’s drive thru, and I’d ask, ‘I want the girl toy…’ they’d just ask for what I wanted. No questions asked. It wasn’t like they really dismissed me for that. I knew that it was a girl toy, but that’s what i wanted to play with. It made me a little bit confused about my gender identity for a long time. It took me until I was in middle school to figure out... ‘Nahh, I don’t think I’m a woman… or want to be one…’ because I had heard of ‘sex changes’ and it was something that I knew about, but I didn’t know if that was for me. Later on, finding out that’s where I was actually male…. Then finding out later that I still had this femininity that still had to be expressed. That’s why I’m so good with beauty and hair, and things like that… that I’ve been able to float myself for the last 15 years on it. I do have that part of me that needs to be in touch with the feminine. Also, in my day to day like, I’m just a regular dude, but I still feel like I need that. That sparkle. That pretty. That beautiful. And I’m not pressured to be one or the other, either way. People love me as Gemini, and people love me as Ben, the hairdresser. I’m okay either way. My personality backs it up, but then also being an accepting person, you tend to attract more accepting people. Once you’re cool with yourself, everyone will be cool with you. That’s my experience anyway…”
On his coming out experience...
“I never really was in… everyone would always say that I’m ‘a homo’... but, the first time that I actually had a gay relationship, or even sex with another man, wasn’t until I was 26. That happened after I had split up with my daughter’s mom… I was crushed. I just wanted love from anywhere. As long as you’re giving me love, I’ll take it. That’s when I started experimenting, and finding that I’m okay… me personally, I’m okay being with a woman. I was with a woman for 6 years… I had planned my life to end with this woman. I wanted the picket fence… I wanted us to be old and sit on the porch watching the kids play in the yard… that was my dream. It really was. Until it went away. That’s how fast your life can change. Like, POOF! I was just thrown into the wind, and didn’t know what to do, or who to love… or if I even wanted to love, or anything like that. Nothing. I didn’t know. I was just grasping at straws to see what could fix me. But, really I had to fix myself, and become confident in whatever I decided to be…”
“I identify as just sexual… Sex and connection are two different things. My brain connects… what my brain can connect to… my genitals sometimes don’t. It’s a weird thing for me. It’s all in the aura of somebody. That’s why I can’t say that I’m bisexual, or even gay, or pansexual… or anything like that… because me, personally, I don’t know. I wouldn’t never say, ‘No fats, no femmes…’ Nothing like that. I would never limit myself to that. Or even by gender. Or transgender. Me, personally, what I click with is people that are secure. People that know where they’re going. What they’re doing. Who they are…”
Favorite part about the community?
“LOVE. That right there is what helped me get through my hard time. There were a couple weeks there where I didn’t wanna say word... I didn’t wanna talk about it… I just wanted someone there.... My face was in a coloring book for like 2 weeks. My friends from the community were there just to sit. My friend would be on the computer making mixes for their next drag show, and I’d just be sitting on the couch just zombied out. They didn’t have to do anything… they were just there. That’s the kind of love you get from the people that you connect with in this community. More than a mother, more than a brother, more than a sister, more than anything… it’s just a soul connection that you make with your fellow homos that’s f*cking awesome. There are so many things to relate to. You can feel other people’s pain when they talk about stuff… it’s like, I’ve been there. Let me love you! Let me show you acceptance! Let me show you that you’re not alone. That’s the good side of the community… we’re all connected.”
“People being unnecessarily c*nty… THAT is the biggest thing. It’s like, you’re trying to be funny, but it’s not working. I don’t know what you’re doing… you don’t know me. Not even just hateful, but completely missing the mark with it. Like me, I take it to a more funny level when I’m being that way… but some people just don’t know that balance. They think that every gay should be like that…. Every gay should be b*tchy… and c*nty… and sassy… No! ...you’re obviously not that type of person, so maybe figure yourself out… It’s irritating to me, that one.”
What is something you would tell younger you? Advice for anyone out there who feels like they can’t come out, or they don’t have a community to be a part of?
“To younger me… keep being fabulous! Because I was fantastic. I was a cute little kid… I really was. Until I let people get to me. Then I became withdrawn and shy… and bullied… and made to be someone else’s puppet for so long. Whether it be from my older brother, my family, teachers, or anything… I was always their puppet. It’s because I got beat down. But before all that I was this wonderful little kid that ran around the world with no care… I would dance when nobody was looking… that’s the kid that I was. I was the little 4 year old in the middle of the dance floor dancing by myself at a wedding… Then after years of allowing people almost dictate who I should be… you know, ‘Quit acting like a girl! Boys don’t cry!’ That kind of stuff really messes a kid up. So I would tell younger me to stay soft… stay effervescent… stay wonderful… stay bubbly… stay energetic… stay all this because you’re going to have to wait until you’re f*cking 26 or 27 to ever see it again! And you’re gonna have to become someone else to do it!
That was how I got started in drag… I needed to become someone else because I didn’t want to be this depressed person. I needed to be larger than life. I didn’t have to be Ben… I just created this whole other person. People don’t know her…. They’re about to! Dissociation almost… When I first started going to drag shows, I was doing wigs for the queens. Sometimes they needed to kill time and they would all be in the dressing room, so they sent me to talk on the mic… ‘Are you kidding me? Hello…. Everybody…. How are you?’ I was deathly afraid of being on stage in front of people, because I had been conditioned to reserve myself. So I became that more reserved person. Because being flamboyant, loud and bold ‘wasn’t acceptable’... not that it wasn’t acceptable, but by standards of everybody else, that wasn’t okay for me to be that way. It wasn’t okay for me to walk down the halls in school and sing…
To others… I feel you, I really do. If you don’t want to come out. It can be very scary, because you almost feel like you’ve been lying to yourself and everybody else up until that point. You’ve been denying. You’ve been lying. You’ve been saying you’ve been dating other people. Doing all this to live this lie… you feel like you’re about to bust your front. It’s not like that… it’s almost like you’re taking a cloak off. And you’re able to see and breathe and live… if you were to do it, and you feel the need to relocate… it’s a good idea. You don’t need to feel bad for being yourself, and wanting to be expressive of what you feel inside of you. So, if you need to go, go. Do it. Get the f*ck outta that hateful ass place! You don’t need that hate in your life. Go! Find a place where you can almost be anonymous… that’s kind of like me. I was able to be anonymous in the community here because I wasn’t known…. Because all the time that I lived in Colorado Springs, shortly after I moved [my daughter’s mother] got pregnant, and I just went into dad mode. I was in the house all the time, nobody knew me… so when I started to come out to event and stuff, nobody knew me. At all. Really. Being anonymous helps when you come out. Nobody knows your history. Or your past. But who are you hiding from? Yourself. For the most part. So don’t be afraid. Don’t be scared, the gays love ya!”
What in your life are you most proud of?
“My beautiful, artistic, amazing, kind hearted, golden child of mine…. THAT’S my pride and joy! She’s absolutely the most wonderful person, and I wish there was more people like her. I wish more people raised their children like that… like I’ve been doing… She’s all accepting. She doesn't know what gay, lesbian, bisexual means… those aren’t words. It’s, ‘Dad loves Will…’ It’s not gay, straight, or anything like… Of course she sees that other kid’s parents are a man and a woman, most of the time, there are some lesbian parents at the school… she sees that all and accepts it. As far as artistically goes, anything that she expresses interest in, I’m like, ‘Okay… let’s see where this goes…’ Her artistry has just taken off. It’s crazy how involved she is with it, and how serious she is about it…”
With the state of the nation and the world in its current state, what’s one thing you would change if you had the power?
“I would give everyone a home. Everyone. There shouldn’t be people sleeping on the street, or scared that they’re gonna lose their home. You should have that place… where you feel safe. Or that’s yours. Even if it’s half the size of this room… everyone should have a place…”