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ME11: Proving Them Wrong and Finding Your Light

If life is an 8-count, let today be your 5-6-7-8.

Rainbow Flag by Ludovic Bertron is licensed under CC BY 2.0

ME11: Proving Them Wrong and Finding Your Light

Estimated Reading Time: 6 Minutes

Growing up, I always knew I was different.

I loved wearing my cousin Jamie’s patent leather Mary Janes and dancing around the house. My sister would dress me up in her dance costumes, putting on shows for legitimately anyone willing to watch. Using a t-shirt as a wig, I’d flip my hair back and forth to my Space Jam CD. All of which seemed completely fine to me, completely normal.

It took me many years to accept that I was gay. Sometimes I still struggle with it, to be honest. As cliche as it sounds, coming out, is a journey of a thousand steps, starting with the hardest one: acceptance.

I played baseball, basketball, and soccer my entire childhood and I truly loved it! There’s something inherently heterosexual about sports in America. Don’t worry, everyone and their mother will remind you of it.

Once I started dance classes and performing in community shows, I was hooked on performing. It became my escape from everything. There’s pressure to split your personality between two opposite worlds. However, it’s when you find the middle of the Venn Diagram that things feel comfortable.

I didn’t get picked on too much in High School, which I mainly contribute to the fact that I was the point guard on the basketball team and the lead in the musical. My number was obviously #33, after the Hick from French Lick, Larry Bird.

Also, if someone can find the people who wrote High School Musical and let them know I’m looking for them and my royalty check, that’d be great.

Being a gay man in theater who loves sports is pretty rare. I am often called “the straightest gay man” which used to bother me, but I don’t let it anymore.

Growing up, my family were huge New England Patriots fans and I fell in love with the team. I have closely followed them my entire adult life and my bedroom looks like a 12-year-old’ room with all of my Patriots stuff hanging on the walls. The NFL has become a huge part of my life. Specifically Julian Edelman.

For those of you who are unaware, Julian Edelman and I share the same birthday. I am a big supporter of his “JE11” clothing line, and an avid follower of his on Instagram, to the point where @raponey might as well be an Edelman stan account. He’s also sexy as f**k, but that’s beside the point.

All of those things aside, Julian is an inspiration to me in more than just the game of football. He was the runt of his pop warner team as a kid in California and had to work his butt off to keep up with the guys who were twice his size.

Coming out of High School, Edelman spent a year at the College of San Mateo, a junior college, looking to add some experience to his resume. That year Julian threw for 1,312 yards and 14 touchdowns, all while rushing for a school-record 1,253 yards and 17 touchdowns.

All the hard work he put in didn’t go unnoticed, and he transferred to Kent State the following year.

As a KSU Golden Flash (what a name…), Edelman spent the next three years as starting quarterback. Over that time, he amassed 4,997 passing yards, 31 touchdowns through the air, and a 119.2 passer rating. On the ground, Julian rushed for 2,483 yards on his way to 22 touchdowns. His 7,480 yards of total offense broke the school’s record.

A lot of Patriots fans talk about how Tom Brady was drafted with the 199th pick, in the 6th round of the 1999 NFL draft. While it’s a feat that he’s come so far after being completely overlooked, it might surprise you to learn that Edelman was drafted even later.

Twenty-Four picks before the 2009 NFL Draft was over, Julian Edelman was selected by the New England Patriots. The future three-time Super Bowl winner, and Super Bowl MVP was the 232nd pick in the 7th and final round.

Once he was drafted to the Patriots, Jules spent his offseasons working with Tom Brady, creating a dynamic between them that was unstoppable. Their relationship, both on-field and off, has helped them win three Super Bowls together.

Edelman, in my opinion, has beaten the odds. Julian’s story felt like my story.

I applied to five schools and got into one. I felt defeated but I went to that school, worked very hard… and I hated it. After Freshman year, I didn’t return to school, instead, I moved to NYC at 20 years old.

I worked my tail off to prove to everyone back home that I was somebody. Somebody to be proud of from the small town of Bristol, CT. I think I have done that. 3 Cruise ships, 4 Broadway National Tours and a hand full of top-notch Regional Theaters… I made all of the necessary steps in my career to finally be in a New York-based show.

In a way I never felt before, I truly found myself after moving to New York. I met people just like me and I felt comfortable telling people who I really was. The people who really cared about me helped me tell my parents, my sister and the rest of my family and finally, I was free. I was able to be my true self.

I came out to my mother on a rainy day in January, I came out to my dad on a summer day in May, I came out to my sister on the phone, I came out to my best friend Amanda laying on the couch watching football. All of those moments were organic and unplanned, and that’s how I wanted it to be. It is a part of me, but it isn’t ALL of me. I am not defined by who I love. It helps define the man that I am.

On International Coming Out Day I want to say this: We are here.

We are out in the world, fighting for you, fighting for you to be able to come out and be your true self. I know it’s hard. Trust me, I know. But you have the support. If not your family, your fellow gay community. If you’re worried about falling, I can tell you that the safety net below you is woven with thick thread. I know that because it’s caught me countless times.

Life is very hard, I know that first hand, but I am here to tell you that it truly does get better and you, the authentic and true you, is exactly what you were born to be, and exactly what our world needs.

If life is an 8-count, let today be your 5-6-7-8.

Kevin Raponey is originally from Bristol, CT now residing is New York City! He studied dance for 10 years before attending the dance program at University of the Arts where he received his Certification in Dance Education. Since then, Kevin has performed at Theme Parks, on Cruise Ships and in Broadway National Touring Productions! You may have seen Kevin on the National Tours of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular starring The Rockettes, Legally Blonde, A Chorus Line, Nice Work If You Can Get It and The Who’s TOMMY. Kevin was also in the World Premiere of Ever After at Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ just to name a few. Previously, Kevin has worked for multiple dance studios in the tri-state area and an NYC based company, Man In Motion, which brings dance education to dance studios, competitions and conventions all over the US and beyond! Kevin has been a Dance Educator for 13 years and his choreography has been recognized with special judges awards and top scores at numerous regional and national competitions. Now, Kevin is a Swing in Rock Of Ages at New World Stages in New York City! @raponey on Instagram

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