Land Brandon breaks gender roles as comets’ lone male cheerleader
Ria Parikh | Staff Writer
When Sophomore Kahari Land Brandon tumbles on the field as a Comet Cheerleader, gender stereotypes tumble with him.
Land Brandon is currently Mason’s only male cheerleader: he is on both the Junior Varsity and Competition cheer teams.
Land Brandon said he started cheering when he was in middle school, after realizing that while he enjoyed certain skills utilized in gymnastics, he wanted to use them with dance. Prior to committing to cheer, Land Brandon said he feared losing friends, as they stereotyped him into someone he was not.
“I feared people creating a version of me that is completely separate from the version that I am,” Land Brandon said. “That happened, and that happens in life, but I think the best way that I’ve overcome that fear and the way that I dealt with it was to show them they’re wrong. I definitely was scared, and this happened to me — I did lose a lot of friends when I tried out for cheer. People are (now) starting to realize, ‘that’s just who he is; he can be whoever he wants to be’.”
Early in his cheer career, Land Brandon said he faced discrimination through bullying and name-calling, but that the negativity fueled his strength to become a better cheerleader.
“One time, I went to the restroom and someone had written something about me on the stall,” Land Brandon said. “It wasn’t nice and it hurt me, but that day, I went in to that bathroom again with a Sharpie, and I erased over it and I wrote something overtop of it. I proved to myself that this is something I really wanted to do, because I could overlook all the people that were willing to be mean to me just because.”
Sophomore cheerleader Kahari Land Brandon hopes to normalize male cheerleading through participation on the competitive and junior varsity teams. Brandon competes on the sideline and competition cheerleading teams.
Even today, Land Brandon said he will encounter people treating him differently because he cheers. When that happens, he said he envisions his next steps, such as cheering in college, to keep him motivated.
“There are times where I walk in the hallway and there are people that I know that know me and they know what I do, and choose not to interact with me,” Land Brandon said. “That can get me down, but the biggest way that I deal with it is that I’ve made a shield for myself just knowing who I am, and who I could be. When the people don’t talk to me or they say something rude to me, or I feel like I just don’t want to do it anymore, or drama, the biggest way I deal with it is looking forward and thinking about all the things I could do.”
Compared to a high school cheer squad, the concept of male cheerleaders in college is more normalized. Land Brandon said the normalization of male cheerleaders in college could be attributed to the connotation of cheerleading as a sport in college.
“I just think that in high schools, cheerleading isn’t considered a sport, especially football cheer and basketball cheerleading,” Land Brandon said. “They are sometimes viewed as (just something) to get the crowd and the football players pumped up. That’s why when you go to colleges and guys lift the girls and they’re doing all these types of things, it’s viewed as a lot more athletic. So I think the main reason why it’s a lot more acceptable in college and not in high school is that people think it’s really hard and doesn’t take any skill, but it really does.”
Land Brandon said cheer is actually a lot more grueling than it looks and has a larger purpose than what people generally perceive.
“Our whole purpose is to make the crowd more involved in the game, especially at football games,” Land Brandon said. “On TV it is portrayed as just waving your hands around and you don’t have to do much of anything. If you actually pay any attention, I know sometimes it’s hard, but if you actually watch what we’re doing, it’s actually quite difficult, and we just do it over and over again.”
Land Brandon said with his story, he is inspiring people to step outside their comfort zones. He hopes that eventually, his experiences will translate to normalize men in cheer at the high school level.
“A lot of people that I didn’t know would reach out to me and say things that maybe they were too afraid to say in person,” Land Brandon said. “Maybe if they had my Instagram or my Snapchat and they’ve never talked to me before, they’d reach out and tell me that it’s pretty cool how I cheer and things like that. I think that seeing me, eventually, one year or one time would come along where it’s just normal for boys to cheer, and it’s just a normal thing that boys do.”
With the opportunities that we have, Land Brandon said more people should take advantage of them and pursue any interest they have.
“We’re so privileged, especially the school that we go to, to have so many opportunities and so many clubs and organizations,” Land Brandon said. “It’s just kind of stupid to not try and pursue as much as you can while you’re here. I think if I keep going and keep showing people that it’s possible to do, they’ll realize that they can do it too. So many people forget that we never know what could happen the next day, and you don’t always have the most time, so you want to spend it doing things you actually enjoy.”
Photo by Tanner Pearson.