Four years ago I attended my first Pride as a closeted gay man. I boarded the plane to Portland, Ore., with trepidation and had no idea what to expect. My plan was to return home on a Saturday night red eye so I wouldn’t have to march in the pride parade. Three days later I paid an exuberant amount of money to change my flight so I could march.
That Pride weekend changed my life. Our Pride celebrations continue to do so for others on a daily basis.
This weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Outsports Reunion that coincided with Denver Pride. While only a handful of those who attended my first pride were in Denver, it was wonderful to catch-up with people from around the country whom I just don’t see enough of. Being together for a few days, the Power of Pride.
On Friday LGBT athletes, coaches and administrators gathered to share stories and discuss their experiences. I’d done this before. I remember being nervous telly my story. I was worried I would be judged, I was worried that someone back home would find out where I was. None of this happened of course, but rather the opposite. I was embraced and empowered to come out as soon as I got home. Once again, the Power of Pride.
The themes of power and inspiration have been repeated by so many, and Denver was no exception ― LGBT athletes, embracing who they are, sharing their story and going home with more confidence then they had before the trip. The Power of Pride.
The rest of the weekend was spent exploring Denver, hanging with old and new friends and dancing. I am not a dancer, but this weekend I danced. I danced on Friday at the Mile High Party and I danced on Sunday at PrideFest. Everyone did, the Power of Pride.
Of course the grand finale of any Pride weekend, the Parade: thousands in the community gathering to march and show the importance of visibility. Denver was my third parade with members of the LGBT spots community and was just as powerful as ever. Hearing crowds cheer as our group passed by gives the energy of a great sporting event. The Power of Pride.
The most impactful thing to me is watching folks, young and old, truly embrace who they are. Seeing my best friend march along side his gay son. Hearing how many went home and came out to loved ones. Could one weekend have that type of impact on someone? Yes it can, and it has time and time again. The Power of Pride.
On Sunday afternoon, my dear friend Cyd Zeigler, who co-founded Outsports, asked me a profound question: If I could choose to be gay, would I?
I responded, “probably not.” At times it can be a tough life and many, including myself have moments of loneliness.
I’ve pondered this question since, and I realize I didn’t give my true answer. Many of the greatest days of my life happened because I was gay. Many of my best friends, I’ve met after coming out. Finally, being able to help so many others has made me a much better person. Compassion and the understanding that everyone comes from a different and unique situation.
So, I’d like to change my answer. Yes, I would choose to be gay. At 39, I would not want my life to change. Driving six hours to Provincetown with Conner Mertens, hiking the Rockies with Micah Porter, Derek Schell and Sean Smith and dancing this past weekend with Cyd, are some of my fondest memories. This I wouldn’t change for anything.
The Power of Pride.