This article first appeared on USsquash.org.
June marks LGBTQ+ Pride Month around the world and is a time to celebrate LGBTQ+ people and diversity, remember the history of the LGBTQ+ rights movement, and continued advocacy for LGBTQ+ equal rights and inclusion.
Inclusion is one of US Squash’s three core values. We envision people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds across the country enjoying squash, playing the game with a positive spirit, and participating in programs that foster camaraderie, facilitate competition, and encourage healthy lifestyles.
US Squash spoke with three-time U.S. Champion and world No. 36 Todd Harrity–who became the first male squash professional to come out as openly gay in 2018–about the importance of pride month:
What does pride month mean to you?
When I was growing up and going to school there was no such thing as Pride month. So it is amazing for me to see how big it has become and how big corporations support and embrace it. For me, Pride month is a time when I reflect on my past and also think about and celebrate everyone who is different. I am grateful for how far the world has come.
What has your journey been like since coming out?
I would say my life keeps getting better since coming out. All of the relationships in my life are better and stronger now that I’m not hiding anything. And I feel like I’m constantly getting more and more settled and comfortable being me. I find it funny when people say they wish they were younger. For me being young wasn’t so great. I think life is much better when you’re older. And for me it keeps getting better the older I get.
How have you changed or grown since coming out?
Life is better now. I’m just more comfortable and confident being myself. I don’t think much about being different anymore. I don’t wish I was someone else. I trust myself and my instincts more than I ever have before.
What challenges have you faced as an LGBTQ+ professional athlete?
The challenging thing for me growing up as a young, gay athlete was a lack of role models. I think it would have been incredibly helpful for me if I had had someone similar to me to look up to. I think when we are growing up we are constantly looking for other people who we identify with. And for me as a young, gay, male athlete, I had a hard time finding that. I was looking around at my peers and felt very alienated.
What advice would you give to other LGBTQ+ athletes?
You can be anything you want to be in this world. And you aren’t nearly as alone as perhaps it feels sometimes. Reach out if you need help. Because seeking help when you need it is actually a sign of strength, not of weakness. Don’t ever feel like you don’t belong. Because you do belong.
I sometimes think about what I would say to myself if I could go back in time and speak to the confused boy that I was. I love it when people tell me that I have been an inspiration to someone who is struggling because they are different. It’s the best and greatest feeling for me. It makes me feel like maybe I can be that role model that I wish I had.