Snowboarding filmmaker and photographer Tanner Pendleton revealed in an interview with Torment that he is gay. Known for his raw and aggressive style of films featuring fellow snowboarders, Pendleton is believed to be the first male in the snowboarding industry to come out.
“The narrative in action sports tends to be – ‘it’s okay to be queer as long as you rip and present as masculine,’” Pendleton told Out. “The more stories we hear, the closer that moves to ‘it’s okay to be queer, because it’s okay to be queer.’ I wanted to share my story to move our community in that direction.”
“For me, ever since I was really young, I knew,” Pendleton told his close personal friend Java Fernandez in an exclusive interview with Torment. “But it was something that the world told me was bad—so I kept it bottled up in a way, you know?”
Pendleton revealed he was “fully convinced” he’d lose his family, friends, and job if he came out. As he tells it, he was “tripping on everything.” Life in the closet took its toll on Pendleton, resulting in “panic attacks, crazy stomach issues, heart palpitations” and more.
“This is terrible, but my whole life I sort of felt like being gay was a problem. Like it was a defect of mine,” Pendleton said, explaining he felt a need to “compensate” for his perceived shortcoming. “I always felt like I needed to go the extra mile in everything. If I’m snowboarding, I need to be going bigger or faster. And if I’m creating something like a video or whatever, I just need to be so on point that nobody could ever say that I didn’t go above and beyond and make the best thing possible. It’s kind of a blessing and a curse, really.”
He eventually decided he needed to come out, but was in the process of making his latest video, Landline. Concerned his “whole world would fall apart after coming out and that things might unravel in such a way” that he’d be unable to finish the film, he used its completion as his personal Rubicon. The first person he told was his mother, followed by a few trusted friends.
Happily for Pendleton, his world did not fall apart. The news was met with widespread support even within the snowboarding community, although there have been some exceptions.
“Even after coming out, I still see and hear things every day that are rooted in homophobia—even from my friends,” he said. “99% of the time they mean no harm, and it’s things they don’t even realize are hurtful.
With his announcement, he joins Australian snowboarder Belle Brockhoff as the only openly LGBTQ+ persons in the snowboarding industry. Brockhoff came out prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.