60 - Mike Bomberger
Model. Photographer. Skilled Jack of All Trades. Cat Dad.
With the infinite possibilities of gender identity and expression, when did you know….
“I knew something was different from the age of 10 when my mother and father divorced. I grew up thinking that hetero couples would be married and happy for the rest of their life. Having that taken away from me before I hit puberty made everything go out the window. It totally shattered my life, I was lost for a long time. Only until I came to Denver and experienced the fact that I’m not a freak… I’m not a f*ggot... I’m not a retard... I’m not stupid or weird... I just needed my own venue or space and I helped create that through Weirdo and my advertisement. I feel so good about myself now. I used to feel like I wasn’t worth being interviewed because I didn’t feel interesting... weighted down... Now I feel like a bird set free, just like that Sia song...”
How old were you when you came out?
“I came out when I was 19... it was absolutely brutal because I lived in the middle of nowhere after the divorce. I stuck with my dad because he wasn’t crazy. He didn’t give a sh*t. My brother is a narcissist, my sister was off in college, my mother - I don’t talk about her anymore... So really I only had him to talk to... He was a very distant person who did not want to help me or be any part of me being in love with another person... even just acknowledging it, he would change the subject automatically.
My sister and I are so close now... literally a 10 minute drive away, and she recently came out as gay; we had such a strong bonding moment... Everything I thought wouldn’t happen before is happening, in a good light.”
Biggest fears or concern about coming out…
“My fears were... just dying. Absolutely. I just felt like I was going to die because my dad was the only person I could talk to and I was in the middle of nowhere. I feel like the only interesting part about where I lived is how nobody would know if something hurt me... So nobody would really care. It was beautifully awful... it just rips your soul out. I’m surprised I was alive until I’m 30. I kept on telling myself, I thought I would die when I was 18. I said that to myself when I was 13.
Even though my dad was disinterested, what he did tell me paved the way for the rest of my life up until now is that ‘it always does get better’. When I focus on my accomplishments and how I make people feel so good that they cry their ass off just by doing my art. I think what would I do if I was in the grave? Impress some people with my placard saying when I died? That’s not impressive.”
Favorite part about the community?
“It turned me from feeling like a stupid retarded freak, capitalized f*ggot from where I came from... To being celebrated for everything that I am. Everybody’s been through shit in the gay community. It’s very important to me. I just sit at Weirdo and just be celebrated for who I am... and celebrate others for who they are. Like if Pax bleeds all over or something, takes drugs and has people hit her until she's gagging and throwing up. I’m like, well that’s what people really think. I don’t judge her for that. I love the fact that she’s so open....”
What is something you would tell a younger you?
“Try finding the basic foundations that you can actually start to walk on instead of trying to go to the third floor... wanting to finally be done with a house, or something. I wanted to build my own personal house right away. When that happens in real life everything is rickety and wrong. My brain was so scrambled, I couldn’t really think, so I had to start little. I didn’t have a choice, I was stuck. Because of my complicated situation, I had to stay there for college. Six years of pure hell I didn’t want to be in...”
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?
“I’m a firm believer in picking from what you were raised with. Your formative years of being exposed to certain things gives you a stronger grasp on stuff. Do what you grew up with and try to expand... and try to relate to it. My dad taught me the goodness of going the extra mile and not parking directly in front of the store. Do what you grew up with.”
What in your life are you most proud of?
“I could turn my deepest darkest most damaging emotions into beautiful art that makes people cry in a good way. All that stress that I’ve endured, I can sense when somebody is about to do something because I lived my life in fear and panic, too. So I can finally make that weakness into a strength. If it takes 10 years, it takes 10 motherf*cking years…”
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 think the power to move physical objects because some people can’t understand when they’re being aggressive and they don’t know when to back away. I wish I could physically remove them, without touching them because I feel like if I touched somebody I would break a bone. I’ve been through that kind of abuse. I just want to move people out of the way when they don’t understand the harm they’re doing to others…”