Hello Ladies & Gentlemen:
Thank you for taking a little bit of time out of your day to visit my donation page for the 2017 Ride for Pride.
This is my second year doing this ride and I am super excited to be apart of this great event once again. There are so many gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered individuals who need support and this ride does justice in ensuring that support is available to those individuals in our community.
As I child living in southern Indiana, in the middle of the "bible belt", during the 90's, I grew up in fear as a young gay person. I knew I was different, but I didn't know or understand why. I lived in shadow as my family, friends, and others around me would bash and spread hate towards gay people. Without any support, I felt that my only choice was to, drop out of high school, run away from home and try to find love and support elsewhere without much success. The year that followed was one of the worst years of my childhood until I finally came back home, went back into the closet, and conformed to my parents' wishes until I was able to get out on my own. After finally being able to acquire my GED and find a somewhat decent job, I still found myself struggling in my little community in Southern Indiana. As a young gay man, I felt that my life was going nowhere. I knew that I needed discipline, self-confidence, and a new solid foundation in my life. Fortunately, that solution came to me in the form of an Army Recruiter.
I spent the next few year of my life serving in the United States Army as a military police officer, becoming a two-time combat war veteran, and becoming a non-commissioned officer. I learned and experienced many great things while in the military. All of this great stuff, however, came at a cost. During my time in service, Don't Ask Don't Tell was solidly in effect. Again, I found myself alone and back in the closet. During those years, I heard some of the most hateful things said towards the LGBT community. Things like, "Silly Faggot...dicks are for chicks!" or how about, "Oh look, there goes Puff the Magic Faggot!", referring to an individual who was actaully married to a woman but it was ASSUMED that he might actually be gay just because he was a little more effeminate. What's worse...I feared to say anything. I didn't want to lose my rank, my career, or worse yet, in times of war, my life. Yes, unfortunately, "friendly fire" is a real thing folks and it was always on the forefront of my mind. I never got the opportunity while in the military to go to my unit's annual formal ball. Why? Because I would never be allowed to bring a boyfriend or partner to that event. Not that I had one, but I certainly didn't want to be the single gay soldier at the event either again for fear of being harassed or bashed. Thankfully, Don't Ask Don't Tell has been abolished since, but I am a firm believer that even with Don't Ask Don't Tell lifted today, that our LGBT brothers and sisters, that are serving our country, must always be very careful and watch their back. Every barrel has it's bad apples...
Let's fast-forward to last year's Ride for Pride. I had never really been to a gay themed or gay-oriented event. Most gay folks are surprised when I tell them that I have never been to Provincetown or been on a gay cruise, and no I had never been to a pride event. Why? I think maybe I still had a little fear of going to these events, all stemming from my past. But, last year's Ride for Pride was officially my first gay event and it was the best feeling...ever. I finally was able to find that love, support, and acceptance that I had been seeking for so long. Not only did I do the Ride for Pride, I also did the Rainbow Ride opening ceremony for last year's Rochester Gay Pride Festival. Again, my first ever. At first, I have to admit, I felt a little uneasy being publicly out. It is not something that I ever really do. There was this fear of being bashed or being hated. But, those hesitations went away while I did what I love to do, riding my bike, with some of the most loving people on earth, my fellow LGBT cyclist. The public, as we rode through the streets of Rochester, forming a long pride colored, rainbow of bike riders, smiled, waved, said hello, and even said "Happy Pride" as we rolled by. What an amazing feeling...I was all smiles that day and I'll never forget it. I'm happy to report that I don't live in fear anymore and I am one proud dude. I'm proud for ALL of my accomplishments and for finally being able to be me and accept myself for who I am.
So why do I do this ride? The answer is simple; I don't want another child to go through what I went through as a kid. No one deserves that. And for any person that is going through that turmoil, I ride for them in hopes that someday they will be afforded the opportunity, like I did, to finally be who they want to be and be PROUD and accepting of themselves. I ride this ride because I don't want any gay man or a gay woman to be afraid of being who they truly are, with their family, friends, co-workers, WHOEVER, over a religion, over fear, over uneducated assumption, or over a conservative belief. We are all human, regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. I am a firm believer of "IF IT AINT' HURTIN' YA, MIND YOUR OWN DAYUM BUSINESS" and let others be who they want to be. I believe that everyone in this world needs to given respect regardless of their personal choices in life, again, as long as it doesn't hurt others.
Had I an awesome organization such as the Rochester Gay Alliance as a child, I'm pretty sure that my childhood would have taken a much more pleasant, brighter, and COLORFUL path. I am a full supporter of the Rochester Gay Alliance and I will do everything I can to ensure they have the money and tools needed to make sure our LGBT community is a safe and happy one to live in. It is an absolute pleasure and honor to be a member of this great ride again...