This past weekend I had the singular privilege of being able to attend Denver Pride weekend. This was to be my first Pride Parade outside of Vancouver, and indeed my first Pride events outside of Canada at all. Naturally, this means it didn't happen because I got super sick and had to leave before the parade. Before I departed early and fled back to a climate that could support my biology, I was able to re-learn a number of things that we should never take for granted as LGBTQ people and allies. For those who need background information, I attended Denver Pride weekend as part of the Outsports reunion. Outsports is a website devoted to giving a voice and platform to LGBTQ athletes, no matter where they are and what level of competition they participate in. This is what I learned and remembered from being around my brothers and sisters-in-arms.
1. There are more of us than we will ever know, and we truly are everywhere. One of the first things we did on the weekend was hit up the bars and clubs as a group. We packed the house both times. More than half the people at the first club were Outsports people, and even though we didn't make up as big a share of the club later in the evening, there were more of us numerically than the start of the day. People kept coming all throughout the weekend, people who couldn't be there Thursday came Friday. People who couldn't make it Friday came Saturday. But they kept coming. Friday morning when I went to our big discussion event, there was a giant map of North America, and I was asked to put a sticker on where I lived. While the Canadian contingent was small (Go Team Canada!), it was amazing to see how many people from all over the continent were showing up just to celebrate Pride together. That was a powerful image, but of course no one has photographs of it because some of us are closeted and we used our real names on the map. I never thought I'd be going to Denver Pride and celebrating with LGBTQ athletes from Arkansas, Georgia, Hawaii or Massachusetts. It was a perfect visualization for how many of us there were.
2. We are diverse, and our diversity makes us strong. Part of the Friday sessions was to learn about each other, so we all wore name tags with our names and what sports we were affiliated with on our clothes so we could make those instant connections. Like I said earlier, I met people from all around North America, and all of us played different sports. I was the only curler, but I met people who played sports I would never consider, and it got me to think that even though we're all different, we're all still athletes and we have a fraternity among ourselves relating to the dedication and the work we all did to succeed in our respective sports.
3. Most importantly; we are, both as individuals and as a whole, stronger than anything that life puts in our way. I got to hear so many people's personal stories, and it shocked me how strong my fellow LGBTQ athletes are, and how privileged and blessed I have been that my life has avoided many of these anxious, stressful moments. I heard from Olympic Athletes talking about their struggles to remain true to themselves in sports where they would be the only LGBTQ person they know, and how they feared losing the support of their teams and their sponsors for living their truth. I heard from closeted athletes, people who'd never considered going to Pride but knew they had to be in Denver to meet their fellows and realize how many of us there are. I heard from people whose families didn't accept them, who worked hard to change hearts and minds and turn people who didn't support them into their greatest champions. I heard all of this from people, and the underlying comment from everyone was that we all succeeded, but we have so much further to go and that together we can do it. We were empowered to change our communities and to change our schools and to change everything about where we are from, because the organizers knew we could all do it if we put our minds to it.
The people I met at Denver Pride and the Outsports conference changed me. They reminded me of the good that we can do as individuals and as a group of like-minded people. We are bigger than mountains and stronger than those who hate us. I'll never forget this weekend, and I'm so ready for next year's reunion... assuming it's in a city that won't absolutely destroy me on contact the way the Denver heat and high altitude did.