Andy’s coming out story and living life honestly
Andy Germann is Starship’s VP of Banking Operations. Originally from a Midwestern, religious upbringing, Andy’s journey to an honest life has been anything but ordinary.
“It’s been a long time since I told anyone my full coming out story,” Andy, Starship’s VP of Banking Operations, told me via video last month.
Even though we work together and have met a handful of times in person, the pandemic has kept Andy, who lives in Ohio, and myself, in New York, at a proverbial (and literal) arm’s length for over a year.
We’ve found, however, that with the marching-in of Pride month, we’ve also been afforded some special opportunities to connect. And this conversation was no exception.
“It’s been a real treat over the years,” Andy told me, “to see the LGBTQIA+ landscape shift and evolve into something much more open—both accepting and accepted over the years. As we know, it wasn’t always this way.”
Andy, now 54, grew up in a religious family on a dairy farm in Ohio. “About as rural as it gets.” There, he began learning how to drive tractors—yes, full-size tractors—at age five.
“It was definitely a different kind of childhood,” Andy laughed. “I really just went to school and worked on the farm. That was my life until I turned 18. It’s not an easy existence, but my upbringing taught many of the same values I still carry with me today.”
Andy’s first move outside of Ohio was to college in West Virginia. “That’s where I started my banking career.”
Now, thirty-plus years later, Andy’s been in Banking Operations ever since.
“Banking can be very corporate, and that was especially true in the 80s and 90s. So partially because of my profession and certainly because of my upbringing, I lived a fully straight life until I just couldn’t anymore. I ‘made it’ all the way to twenty-eight!” he joked.
“When I really think about it, I knew I was different all the way back when I was learning how to drive that tractor. But as a family, we believed and followed what was taught in the Bible. And being gay wasn’t exactly part of the scripture.”
Getting back to my roots forced me to really evaluate my life—what I believed in, and what was really going to make me happy. Because I was not happy.
A few years after college graduation, Andy moved from West Virginia to Ohio, then to South Carolina, and finally, Chicago, where he says that living in a city gave him a certain opportunity to explore, particularly inward-facing.
“Chicago was where things changed for me. I spent a lot of time with myself. And if I’m being honest, those were difficult times. Lots of self-realization. It was there that I began to understand that I needed to make some really big changes.”
After two dark months in the midwest, Andy moved home to Ohio.
“Getting back to my roots forced me to really evaluate my life—what I believed in, and what was really going to make me happy. Because I was not happy.”
“I wanted desperately for all that internal strife I’d experienced in Chicago to amount to something. So, slowly but surely, I started doing things differently. I even ventured out to some gay bars, still keeping to myself. I’d been so scared for so long. But being there among other people who had the same feelings as me felt so right. Scary, but right.”
So many who have come out as queer-identifying know this feeling: The euphoria of finally feeling like you’re where, and with whom, you’re meant to be. And yet, the options Andy was faced with surrounding his sexuality were starkly dichotomous.
“I was at this point where I knew who I was, but I kept thinking that maybe I could stay closeted and marry a woman, potentially really hurting her down the line,” he told me. “Or I could come out. Be happy. Hurt no one.”
“The choice was obvious,” Andy exhaled, an audible illustration of relief even in retelling all these years later. “And as simple as it sounds, that’s exactly how it happened. From that moment forward, I was a gay man.”
Coming out amid an invisible virus
In much the same way Andy was thrilled to share the joy of coming out, he wasn’t shy in his recounting just how scary it was, at times, to be gay back then.
“Living amidst a mysterious, near-invisible virus. We were all scared. On the one hand, I was scared to be honest with lots of people around me for fear of cruelty, but I was much more terrified of living honestly, and paying the ultimate price for it.”
There was a lot of mystery around AIDS back then. Still is, I suppose. But especially in 1985.
As if coming out, beginning to date, and reconciling with what would become a totally different future than the one Andy once believed he might have, there was more under the surface, still.
“My first partner was HIV positive. He was the first person I brought home to meet my family. I remember how much it meant and still means to me that they all go on so well. They didn’t know about his diagnosis. And why would they? It was a complicated time. There was a lot of mystery around HIV/AIDS back then. Still is, I suppose. But especially in 1985.”
“That partner did eventually pass away due to complications from HIV. I had 3 people—far fewer than most from those times—with whom I was close and whose lives were lost to the epidemic.”
Andy tells how many of his friends created ‘pill cocktails’ to battle symptoms, unable to pay for medical treatment due to the exorbitant costs or fear of stigma.
“People were paying thousands of dollars out of pocket because insurance companies found ways to deny service. Those same companies are a bit better now, but folks often rely on the many non-profit organizations that exist to help them pay for treatment.”
“I’m pleased to say that I know far more people today who are living healthy lives very much in spite of HIV. In some cases, they’re only taking one pill per day. It’s incredible.”
Making Strides for LGBTQIA Folx
Andy and his partner, Gary, met in 2013 and were married in Florida in 2016, where same-sex marriage was legalized only a year prior.
“I often think about how every step in my process led me to where I am now—happy, healthy, and married to the man I love. I’m very lucky, but getting here was a long road.”
Andy’s right, of course. Particularly after speaking with him about his experience as a closeted youth, and later his struggles with deciding to come out, it’s a treat to watch as Andy beams over his husband, Gary, during our Zoom call.
“The LGBTQIA+ visibility people are presented with these days is life-changing. Literally. The celebration and education surrounding Pride Month alone have encouraged people to live much more honestly, and with less fear. It’s a joy to see.”
To close, I asked Andy what he would tell his teenage self, the boy still struggling to find the right way to become the truest version of himself.
“I may not be invincible, but I will never put my fear first. That’s just no way to live.”
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