I’m so excited to be returning to AIDS/LifeCycle 2020! Last year was such an incredible experience that I had to do it again. I’m thrilled to be coming back this year as one of the Captains for Team Funky Monkey! We’ve set some ambitious, personal and team, goals this year that I hope you’ll help us meet!
I want to provide a little context for why last year was so impactful to me and why I chose to return to the ride. In 2019, I chose the word Authenticity as my defining word for the year. I didn’t quite know how that word would play out over the course of the year, but I knew that it was going to lead to some dramatic changes in my life.
I started 2019 off with a new job. I signed up for my first ALC ride and joined Team Funky Monkey. And I began taking steps to figure out how I was going to come out to my family. I was absolutely terrified to come out to my family. Having grown up in the church and conservative south, I was raised to believe that being gay was the worst thing imaginable. Even if this belief wasn’t strongly preached by my immediate family, the surroundings in which I found myself during my teenage years certainly reinforced this narrative.
Coming out to my family was challenging, emotional, but ultimately rewarding. It allowed my family and me to have an open and honest dialogue for the first time in years and has helped knock down many of the barriers that I had erected as a form of hiding myself from them. Eliminating many of these barriers has allowed us to explore our relationship in a more honest and meaningful way.
I decided to do ALC last year because it felt like the perfect symbolism to represent my coming out journey. I had repressed much of who I was for years. I felt like I had split myself into multiple persons. This was mentally and emotionally exhausting to feel like I was constantly lying about who I was with friends or family. As part of this journey, I was approached by ALC and asked if I would be willing to share my story publicly…
I wrote my story around the theme of “Why I Ride” below is the speech that I shared at the sendoff gala last year.
Why do I ride? Great question! I struggled to find the words that adequately express what drove me to make the crazy commitment of biking 545 miles from SF to LA. I’ve never been a real cyclist before, but I signed up, bought a bike and gear, and began training. I find life's timing to be amusing, as I glance at the calendar while writing this, I noticed that tomorrow is the fifth anniversary since I graduated from college. If you had told me five years ago that I would be living in San Francisco, training for my first AIDS/LifeCycle, and that I could raise over $3,500 in a month’s time, I'd have said you were crazy.
If you had also told me five years ago that I would eventually come out as a gay man and that I would learn to love and accept myself, I'd have said you were crazy. If you had told me that my friends and family would accept me, I'd have laughed in your face to hide the pain and fear that I was experiencing while living my life in the closet.
Well, here we are a year later from when I first wrote those words. 2019/20 has been a challenging year. I came out to friends and family. I started a new job in a new field. I
Yet, here I am. I just turned 27, and I'm 18 days away from clipping in and peddling off with my wonderful Funky Monkeys to embark on a noble cause to help end HIV/AIDS. When I first signed up for ALC, I was extremely nervous about the fundraising component for two reasons. First, participating in an event like ALC meant that I finally had to face the music and officially come out to my friends and family. Second, I wasn't sure if I would lose some of my friends, and family, in the process of coming out.
I was terrified that if I lost these groups, I would not be able to reach my fundraising goal, but really, I was terrified that I would find myself alone. I knew that I couldn't continue to live a double life, the lies and half-truths were exhausting to maintain, and I was tired of living in fear of the unknown. I made the decision to register for ALC, and began the journey of coming out to my family and friends. Since then, the overwhelming support from family, friends, colleagues, and fellow queer Christians and my church community has truly been incredible.
The question, "why do I ride?" still needs an answer. I ride 545 miles to honor the men and women who came out of the closet before I did and refused to let their voices be silenced. I ride for the men and women who fought and protested, so I could party and walk down the streets in relative safety. I ride for the men and women who died and suffer from HIV/AIDS. I will never be able to understand what the generation of LGBTQ individuals went through during the height of the AIDS epidemic. The world lost a generation of talent, wisdom, visionaries, and beautiful souls. All I can do is show my gratitude for their strength by riding for them.
I ride for those whose body no longer allows them to do so. I ride so future generations will not have to fear or suffer from HIV/AIDS. I ride to reduce the stigma that surrounds those that have been impacted and affected by HIV/AIDS. I ride so that others can love and live. I ride because 545 miles is an exhausting and arduous physical challenge. I ride because 545 miles, to me, was a beautiful and physical way to represent the emotional and mental turmoil that the coming out and self-acceptance process was for me.
In 2019, I took the steps to live my life truthfully and authentically. I completed the ride, but the journey of authenticity is still underway. I’ve grown a lot this year. I’ve faced many obstacles, challenges and setbacks. I refuse to bow down and quit. I’ve only just begun to live my life. To the week that gave me the strength and motivation to be me, thank you! I’m excited to be coming back stronger, truer to myself, and prouder than ever.
Last year, I set a goal of $3,000 which became $5,000 and, in the end, I raised a total of $6,500. This year, I’ve set an ambitious goal of raising $10,000 to help fight HIV/AIDS. Will you join hands with me as we combine our collective talents, strengths, and resources to end this disease for good?