Growing up, I learned to associate my sexuality with inferiority and shame. During my freshman year of college, I fell into a debilitating and life-threatening depression as I struggled to come to terms with my sexuality. I sought out running as way to cope with my sexuality and overcome my battle with my depression. With the completion of my first marathon in the spring of that year, I felt that I had taken control of my depression and come to terms with my sexuality. I learned how important it was to embrace my identity and live free of the fears that resulted in my depression. In that moment, I committed to living my life fully and embracing every aspect of myself. Later that same year, I took that commitment further when I ran the Philadelphia Marathon and raised money for The Trevor Project.
The recent Orlando shooting at the Pulse Nightclub drew on fear and hatred as a means to quiet those who also committed to live their lives without fear of discrimination. These individuals embraced every aspect of themselves fully and did not succumb to stigma and stereotypes. Pulse provided them with a safe space to be who they are and, by living the way they did, they pushed for progress and acceptance for LGBT individuals nationwide. Pulse was, and still is, an emblem for LGBT equality.
The Orlando shooting served as an important reminder for me to continue living fully as who I am – to keep embracing myself and pushing for progress. It made urgent the need for support. It motivated me to take action.
On September 25th, I am competing in the Chattanooga Ironman triathlon and raising money for OneOrlando, an organization committed to helping the victims and community of Orlando rebuild after the recent tragedy. OneOrlando aims to restore the spirit of Orlando – to reestablish the community as a safe space, and to assist the families and individuals who are still coping.
The Chattanooga Ironman continues not only my personal journey, but also the LGBT community’s journey towards equality and acceptance. In working with OneOrlando, I am furthering my commitment to embrace every aspect of myself and to break down stigmas surrounding the LGBT community. I hope that, with the efforts of OneOrlando, the LGBT community will not just recover, but be strengthened by the support and continue pushing towards equality.