pride flag in mountains
Pride Month isn’t about our sexuality; it’s about our struggle and about those who have supported us—and continue to. (aniecbros/iStock)

What I Learned from Writing Outside’s Pride Newsletter

If I can help or influence one person, all the negative comments will have been worth it

pride flag in mountains
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When I took a role as Outside’s email marketing manager last October, I was full of joy and excited to bring my abilities to such a successful company. As an avid reader of the magazine for years, I noticed that it had progressed to publish more stories from a diverse range of perspectives and people in the outdoor community—something important to me. I knew that if I was going to leave my job at NBC Sports, it had to be for a company that shared my passions and embraced my values. At Outside, I manage email sent to millions of subscribers each week, and with that comes continuous feedback, opinions, and rants about our stories, sponsors, and brand in general. 

In May, when I was asked to create our Pride Month newsletter, I jumped at the opportunity. Outside was acquired by Pocket Outdoor Media (now Outside Interactive, Inc.) in February and joined a team that included incredible publications like Backpacker, Ski, TriathleteYoga Journal, and many more. As part of the LGBTQ+ community myself, I was thrilled to collaborate with our various editors, and it marked the first Pride newsletter that encompassed different perspectives and experiences across all of our brands in the Outside network.

But after I hit send on Friday, June 17, the negative responses flooded in like a tsunami. I’d steeled myself for some backlash and hateful comments; I knew that as Outside has continued to tell stories from LGBTQ+ and BIPOC perspectives, this has enraged many subscribers who are used to stories focusing on them—whether they realize it or not. But as Outside continues to grow and evolve, so, too, do our ideas on the people and topics we want to cover.

Reading feedback is the job of an email marketer, but this time it struck a more personal chord with me, because I’m a gay man. I’ve endured spiteful comments, like the ones I read at Outside that day, throughout my entire life, from being bullied in school to being spit on and harassed in the streets by random strangers. However, I’d never experienced them on such a scale.

Reading feedback is the job of an email marketer, but this time it struck a more personal chord with me, because I’m gay man.

I grew up with a conservative father in the Air Force, and he had preconceived notions of the type of “man” I should be: he wanted me to play football, hunt, date women, and be more masculine. I loved soccer, volleyball, tennis, and swimming. I had a lot of girls who were friends, and I loved animals and conservation. Like most LGBTQ+ youth, I tried to prove myself, in every facet of my life, to seek my parents’ and peers’ approval. I was an honor-roll student and a multisport varsity athlete. I made a lot of friends, volunteered, and got a scholarship to college. But I was still unhappy every day. I did everything in my power to prove to everyone that I was straight, losing myself in the process. No matter what I did, everyone around me still questioned my sexuality.

Being a closeted gay athlete had its own battles. There was no one in the sports world to look up to. No stories were written about our experience, which is a unique one: from having to pretend to be interested in the constant banter about girls at school, to behaving more aggressively in practice so as not to come across as weak, to letting the “queer” and “fag” comments slide off like they weren’t a dagger to the gut each time. These are just some challenges a gay athlete must endure in the sports world. I didn’t know where I fit in as a gay man and an athlete. I’m gay, but not that gay, I would tell myself. I play sports but don’t know anyone else like me—what’s wrong with me?

I also felt the ridicule from many athletes who were religious and who used their religion to justify discriminating against gay people, while simultaneously thanking God for their own accomplishments. I thought, if athletes can praise God for their achievements, why is it always an issue when LGBTQ+ athletes praise our community for helping us persevere through our struggles and a sports environment that continuously puts us down? It was a double-edged sword I couldn’t fathom. These were challenges I faced every day. Little did I know, I wasn’t being myself; I was being who everyone else wanted me to be.

The more visibility I saw, the more powerful I felt.

I began to embrace my true identity in college, learning about LGBTQ+ history in the U.S. and around the world. For the first time in my life, I was proud of who I was. I felt seen and validated, and I wasn’t adhering to anyone’s rules about who I should be or how I should act. Gay marriage was legalized the year I came out, and the women’s national soccer team won the World Cup—and when they did, coverage panned to some of the players kissing their partners in the stands on national TV. Finally, I had someone I could look up to, people we could all look up to.

I knew that after college I wanted to work for a company that would allow me to have an impact on our community, particularly in media. I navigated my way to getting a job at NBC Sports, working on Olympics coverage in the process. More and more LGBTQ+ athletes were not only coming out but succeeding in their respective sports. The more visibility I saw, the more powerful I felt. That’s why it’s important to talk about LGBTQ+ people in sports and the outdoors.

Since taking my job at Outside, I’ve been humbled and impressed with the content our magazine, website, and sister brands have published about the LGBTQ+ community and its strides in the outdoor world. Not just because they are great stories and rarely told perspectives, but because of the positive impact they have on LGBTQ+ youth and people around the country. After my company heard about the hate mail that I’d received, an outpouring of support arrived in my inbox from people around Outside, thanking me for my hard work, my collaboration, and my resiliency. This is the reason I took this job: to share the incredible experiences of all people in the outdoors. Pride Month isn’t about our sexuality; it’s about our struggle and about those who have supported us—and continue to. It’s an opportunity to learn about our experiences and celebrate the hurdles we’ve overcome. In the midst of all the hate in my inbox, I received thanks from subscribers and readers as well. I know that if I can help or influence one person, all the negative comments will have been worth it. I will continue to push the needle and share our community’s point of view. My hope is that by doing so, I can help someone who feels like they have no one to look up to, and show them that they are included, loved, and accepted outside.

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Lead Photo: aniecbros/iStock
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