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Growing up in a Christian community as I did, homosexuality and especially HIV/AIDS were never talked about. But when I realized 14 years ago that I was gay, that all began changing.
As the youngest of three boys where the Lutheran Church was our life, coming to this realization was horrifying. I had never, to my knowledge, even interacted with or known anyone who was gay. I had many more questions than answers. Why me? What did I do to deserve this? Am I alone?
All of these worries consumed my everyday thoughts and pained me for years. It wasn't until the end of high school that I realized I was not alone, that for some unknowing reason, I was made this way. Yet I stayed in the closet.
I attended Seattle Pacific University, a private Christian college in Seattle, where I now live. During college I started to become more comfortable with myself and was able to start answering those questions that for so many years haunted my thoughts. With the help and support of loving friends, I was able to first say the words "I'm gay."
Still I was uneducated. And so as the years went on, and as I was able to come out to my loving family and friends, I educated myself and every day continued to be more comfortable with myself. I also began to learn more about HIV/AIDS; how it was devastating individual lives and entire communities, how it was still too difficult to raise awareness and dollars to fight if not something being ignored.
So when my buddy Jason Krech and I were talking in Decemeber about how he did the AIDS/LifeCycle in June of 2011, what he said resonated.
He said that it was a life-altering experience. And as he spoke with such passion and genuine enthusiasm about this ride, I realized this was something I was going to do.
With his help, I signed up for the ride and was fundraising before I knew it. I have never been an avid cyclist. But I know this ride is extremely important to those living with HIV/AIDS. The money raised provides hope that one day there will be a cure.
I'm riding for my friends who are HIV-positive, for those who have been affected and for those who are no longer able to ride. I ride because as my own life has changed I have learned about the struggles that others face, and I want to make a genuine impact on their lives. Together we can provide hope for those who are living with HIV/AIDS.
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