LGBTQ+ community members in the Washington, D.C. area are mourning the sudden death of a longtime activist who worked to promote nightlife by organizing events such as Gay Day at the National Zoo, leather appreciation nights, and numerous events for people living with HIV.
On Monday evening, a housemate of Jacob Nathaniel Pring announced the 47-year-old's death and paid tribute to him on Facebook.
Sasha Chijoku wrote, "It is with great sorrow and grief that I tell you now that my housemate, Jacob Nathaniel Pring, passed away. For the present, and out of respect for his family, let me just say that his death was sudden and completely unexpected."
"[J]ust as much as he would be engaging with people, sometimes he would spend days at a time in solitude," Chijoku wrote. "But when he emerged, he was always ready to share his wonderful smile again, and I found him to be thoughtful and intelligent when I talked to him."
Pring had been open about his struggles with addiction and substance abuse over the years. He celebrated his sobriety on August 8 on Facebook. "29 Months and one day Drug Free!!!" he wrote. The post got more than 200 positive reactions.
On August 24, Pring wrote, "900 Days Drug Free!!!"
According to Pring, his feelings on September 7 were similar to those expressed in a Facebook post two years earlier.
He had written, "As I sit here seeing all the hot twinky boys and hot men here at the beach, I am reminded of where I have been. That use to be me. We all get our time. Some more than others. I have had a blessed life. Walking away from the drugs for good has me sitting here reminiscing of younger days. We don't get to go back, but we sure do get to live an older life. I switched gears. Sex ran my life for 30 years. Now I feel like a retired older elder. I have lived life to the fullest. I can't imagine what life has left in store for me. But I have reached a new mental frontier. I feel lucky and blessed to have made it to this new age of living!!!"
He was found dead in his Springfield, Va., home less than three weeks later.
According to Nicholas DiBlasio, a longtime friend of Pring, the death of Pring was unexpected and sudden, the Washington Bladereports. Pring's loved ones are awaiting the results of toxicology tests done by the Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to determine the cause of his death.
Pring produced weekly leather-oriented events at gay bars and other gay-friendly clubs.
A particular aspect of Pring's life he was proud of was his military service.
As part of a September 2020 Facebook post, Pring highlighted his military experience.
"I served in U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard," Pring wrote. "I was no loser. I chose to do my part to keep our country safe. This stuff about Trump saying the crazy things he has said makes me so angry! Please [v]ote that asshole out! Please!"
News of Pring's death shocked those who knew him. Dozens of people online have expressed their grief and sadness at Pring's untimely death.
On his Facebook page, former D.C. Center for the LGBT Community executive director David Mariner paid tribute to Pring.
"So sad to hear this news," Mariner wrote. "Jacob was an amazing young man. He created leather events in our community back in the day, he created Gay Day at the Zoo for The DC Center. He was out as a HIV positive person and created social spaces for poz men. He will be missed."
Mariner wrote an extensive Facebook post about the struggles LGBTQ+ people face in today's society a day after Pring's death.
"Jason Comer (right) died in 2018. Jacob Nathaniel Pring (left) died this week. The two were close friends," Mariner wrote. "I don't know all the circumstances of the deaths of these two young men, but I knew their struggles. As LGBTQ+ people we struggle with higher rates of depression, substance use, and rejection. We struggle with friends and family members who see us as 'less than because our lives do not match their expectations. And of course, despite the stereotype, we are not all wealthy. In fact, most of us struggle, and lacking the safety net of a supportive family makes those struggles harder. Some of us engage in sex work to survive. Those of us who fight our demons and make it through know that life is pretty amazing on the other side. In fact, life is wonderful on the other side. But as we know, not all of us make it through. We still have higher rates of suicide, we still have a lower life expectancy."
As Mariner closed out his post, he offered a heartfelt message.
He wrote, "I would have liked to see Jason and Jacob make it to 60, or 70, or 80. I'm feeling pretty useless at the moment, but I do know there are things we all can do to help our LGBTQ+ family."
If you are having thoughts of suicide or are concerned that someone you know may be, resources are available to help. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 is for people of all ages and identities. Trans Lifeline, designed for transgender or gender-nonconforming people, can be reached at (877) 565-8860. The lifeline also provides resources to help with other crises, such as domestic violence situations. The Trevor Project Lifeline, for LGBTQ+ youth (ages 24 and younger), can be reached at (866) 488-7386. Users can also access chat services at TheTrevorProject.org/Help or text START to 678678.