The Pride and Pride Month

I'll be honest here, the very first time I really kind of had the urge to pay attention to soccer was in 2012 when I heard about Megan Rapinoe coming out. At the time I was still going through what I like to call “Abbey's Gay Panic” and seeing people like her, Jill Ellis, and Abby Wambach on the international stage was more important than I could put into words at that time but I think it's due time I try.

 Rapinoe doing what she does best at Nippert Stadium

Rapinoe doing what she does best at Nippert Stadium

I'll start this off with a little background. I realized I wasn't quite straight early in my sophomore year of high school. I was attending McAuley High School, an all-girls Catholic high school, and at that time, being bisexual was like the end of the world. How could anyone be friends with me? There was a chance I could fall for one of them! I ended that year having admitted my bisexuality to myself and maybe about three of my friends and then went off to work at Girl Scout camp.

Fast forward to the end of high school and I'm still not out but most of my friends know. I came out to my parents senior year not to much fanfare. I am blessed with a loving and accepting set of parents I wouldn't trade for the world. But as every LGBT person knows, that fear of rejection is ever present and real.

College came and my acceptance of myself only grew. I really didn't care if people I just met knew I was bi but I still didn't consider myself “out of the closet.” It was still a big thing to me to bring up that I wasn't straight, especially because I was (and still am) in a long term heterosexual relationship with the most wonderful man. For a while, it felt to me that I shouldn't come out because what did it matter. I passed as straight and even if I did come out, people would be like, “Okay why are you telling me? You're dating a guy?” 

That all changed in 2016. There was an election that year, you may remember. I do. I remember being scared. I remember sitting on my couch watching election results come through and I remember crying so hard I could barely focus. But I also decided something. In an act of what I saw as defiance, I came out publicly on Facebook, eight years after admitting it to myself. I had decided I wasn't going to hide any part of who I was anymore. 

That was also the year that I started supporting FC Cincinnati. I had joined the Pride that summer and while I liked everyone there, I still had that fear in the pit of my stomach. “Yeah they say they welcome everyone,” my brain said, “But come on, it's not like it matters.” But as I became closer with everyone involved, I realized that my brain was something of an idiot. 

 Over $3000 dollars raised so far for Lighthouse's Safe and Supported program

Over $3000 dollars raised so far for Lighthouse's Safe and Supported program

After the shooting at Pulse Nightclub, I remember feeling a little frozen. Yeah, mass shootings happen, but this was different. This was an attack against my community. Pride parades around the country that year had an undercurrent of fear and dread. I didn't quite know how to process it. I went to donate blood because, unlike gay men, I could. I gave for the people who couldn't to help their own community. But I still was in a state of shock. And then came that first home match after. Something as simple as holding pieces of fabric to create a pride flag while singing the national anthem brought me to tears. It felt again like an act of defiance. There were pride flags waving in the Bailey. Moments of silence. I had never imagined soccer would be able to provide a small measure of healing that I so desperately needed. 

The real turning point for me with my gayness and soccer happened right before the USNWT match. It took me probably too long to realize that I would actually get to see Megan Rapinoe play. I remember distinctly mentioning something about how much it meant to me and that old fear crept up in the pit of my stomach. “Crap, someone's going to say something, it's gonna be this huge thing...” and of course it wasn't. We all just continued talking about how pumped we were for the match.

June is Pride Month for the LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer/questioning, intersex, asexual/aromantic) community. Pride has grown in meaning for me over the years. For me, Pride was something I had to fight for. I had to fight the world, other people, and most importantly, myself. I still have to fight. I've always wanted to see a world without closets. I honestly don't know if I will see that in my lifetime but I am going to fight now for those younger than me so they won't have to fight as hard. That's why I am honestly probably over emotional about The Pride -Love All- Scarf this year.

We always joked about June being the month we get a lot of Pride Cincinnati's Twitter mentions since our names bear a resemblance to each other. This year though we decided to do something different. When Pride was brought up at first we kicked around the idea of a shirt of some sort but when we settled on a scarf and a design, I knew we had something special. What I didn't realize was how special. The response from people who aren't even members of The Pride or even fans of soccer has blown me away. I never imagined being a fan of soccer could somehow translate into me continuing my journey of self acceptance.

The money from the -Love All- scarf is going to Lighthouse's Safe and Supported, a program that helps LGBT kids who are now homeless find places where they can be just that: safe and supported. A staggering number of kids are still kicked out of their homes when they come out to their parents. The rate of trans people that try to commit suicide is 41%. The rest of the population? 4.6%. This program is something tangible we can do in our own county to help.

 A good group of people (soccer fans) doing good in their community

A good group of people (soccer fans) doing good in their community

Pride has meant a lot of things to a lot of different people over the years. Pride was a riot. Pride was a protest. Pride was a party. Pride was the one day out of the year that you could be unapologeticly yourself. Pride is political. Pride is powerful. I am PROUD beyond words of what this group has done so far. I am PROUD of our club and city. I am PROUD to be bisexual. I am PROUD to be in The Pride.

“I feel like it's actually everybody's responsibility to use whatever platform they have to do good in the world, basically, and to try to make our society better, whether you're an accountant or an activist or an athlete or whatever it is. I think it's everybody's responsibility.” -Megan Rapinoe

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Abbey Witzgall