Every June, we collectively mark Pride Month and acknowledge the power, dignity, and beauty of the LGBTQ+ community. Celebrating Pride is a decades-long tradition that gives people within the LGBTQ+ community and their allies a platform to publicly recognize the rich and deep diversity inherent in human sexual orientation and gender identity.
Pride is also a time when LGBTQ+ people commemorate past struggles for equality, rededicate themselves to winning current fights, and, most importantly, celebrate the growth and evolution that comes with loving yourself enough to embrace who you are publicly.
This Pride Month, we interviewed two LGBTQ+ leaders in the Boston area about their stories of growth and their commitment to giving back to the community.
Note: Cheryl has confirmed that she is OK with being referred to as Chuck initially, prior to beginning her transition.
As a teenager, Chuck Katon knew quite well that he was transgender, but was deeply conflicted about coming out to friends and family. He'd spend hours in the local library reading the biography of former tennis player Renée Richards, who fought to compete in the 1976 U.S. Open as a female after having gender affirmation surgery. Chuck was in fact Cheryl, and after graduating from high school and starting college, she slowly became more comfortable living her true identity.
"That was the beginning of a deeply compartmentalized life," Katon said. "I would allow small groups of allies into my circle, find opportunities to safely present as female, and then I'd go back to his life. I lived that bi-gender, compartmentalized life for decades. Throughout all those years, the circle of friends and responsibilities I carried as Cheryl grew until, when it became time to transition, I was lucky enough to simply step over into the female life I'd built for myself."
Cheryl told the woman who would eventually become her wife about her gender identity and found much support. They slowly told friends and family over the years, and despite some extended family and friends who expressed discomfort, Cheryl found a support system that has shown her nothing but love and respect.
"Hundreds of people have sent me encouragement and affirming messages," she said. "There are certainly some folks who have simply been quiet. For those folks, I simply leave the door open."
The coming out process has also done a lot for her own mental well-being and personal growth.
"One thing I'd say about my personal growth as related to my trans experience is that it helped me to become really good at self-reflection. I have to own up to my feelings and the tactics I use to deflect or avoid. This self-reflection skill is critical for personal growth. It's humbling. It's also empowering and helps me communicate, process, identify problems in myself and others, and then have the courage to address those issues."
For Marc Davino, celebrating Pride is a year-round activity. Marc has devoted himself to building community through sports, and Pride is another opportunity to expand that community.
"As long as I can remember, going back to high school, I've given back to my community," Davino said. "When I found Boston's LGBTQ+ sports community in 1994, it was a perfect match. I could enjoy team sports in a safe environment and give back. The next year I started playing in the Beantown Softball League (BSL), and a few years later, FLAG Flag Football. I've been on all three boards, including commissioner of the Boston Gay Basketball League and BSL. I've served on committees, coached teams and run fundraisers. I just truly enjoy giving back, especially in gay sports, where our community isn't traditionally active."
In 2000, Marc was inducted into the National Gay Basketball Hall of Fame, where he was honored for his tremendous work in building relationships within the LGBTQ+ sports community. In April, he was honored at their 30th annual celebration for his continued work in the local community.
"It's extremely important to have community these days," said Marc. "Folks have been socially isolated for way too long, raising levels of anxiety, depression, and more. I can speak for myself—but probably for others too—in saying that my networks were the only way I was able to manage the pandemic and a job search at the same time. I'm forever grateful for game nights, Zoom chats, socially distanced 'walk and talk' events with friends, and so much more."
A Community of Stories
These are just two stories among millions that show how fulfilling it can be to feel truly comfortable with your identity, supported by your community, and that you're living your best life. How will you continue to tell your story or support a loved one's journey this Pride Month?
Join Us for Good as we work to recognize and uplift every LGBTQ+ voice in June and year-round.