Youth Pride Day
Youth Pride Day, the region’s largest event for LGBT youth staged each year by the Youth Pride Alliance, is Saturday and about 500 teens and 40 organizations are expected for an afternoon of music, videos, dance, drag and more.
Wade Davis, a former NFL player who came out last year as gay, will speak at the event. He entertained a bevy of questions during a phone interview this week from his Manhattan office where he works as assistant director of job readiness and academic enrichment at Hetrick-Martin Institute. Some comments have been edited for length and clarity.
BLADE: How did the invitation come about to visit Washington?
DAVIS: They reached out and asked if I could come. Anytime I have an opportunity to work with young people, I’m gung ho. I’m also nervous because the expectations with kids are a lot different than they are with adults, but they inspire me and give me strength when they share their stories with me.
BLADE: You’ve spoken before about being able to pass for straight and how that saved you from likely grief in the NFL. Do you think queer teens who are more likely to be perceived as LGBT have a tougher time overall?
DAVIS: Yes, because not all kids have the ability to exist as I did and if their gender representation is deemed to be, say, more effeminate, they are targeted. That’s one thing I try to do is illuminate the issue and point out that … it’s not OK to bully and demean those who don’t have the option of passing.
BLADE: Does your youth advocacy work on LGBT issues dovetail with the youth work you do with Hetrick-Martin?
DAVIS: Yes, they fit in perfectly.
BLADE: What recurring theme you hear from LGBT teens has been the most surprising?
DAVIS: One of the big things is they say people who identify as LGBT are actually the ones that are most critical of them. They say our young people have to exist in certain ways to further the gay movement, like not wear pants that sag or talk to loud. They think they should be more buttoned up and show a more pristine view of what it means to be LGBT. The kids feel they aren’t accepted in many adult LGBT circles because people want them to act differently. I think it’s very tragic.
BLADE: You’ve said before it was good you weren’t out during your years playing as you didn’t have enough LGBT experience or interaction to have contributed anything meaningful to the national dialogue at that time. Can you elaborate on what your feelings were at the time?
DAVIS: When I was playing from around 2000 to 2004, there were no conversations around gay athletes. It just wasn’t in my purview then and I had little if any contact with anyone who was gay. Even when I came out to myself in college finally — I still wasn’t able to say the words but I was very conscious of liking guys — but it was this unspoken thing that nobody was talking about so I certainly wasn’t going to talk about it either. When you’re not exposed to anything different, you don’t even have the language to really say what it is. I wouldn’t have even known how to articulate it. I didn’t know there was an acronym. I thought a transgender person was just drag. I had pretty much zero understanding so looking back I’m glad I didn’t say or do things at the time that would have been harmful to young people because of my lack of knowledge.
BLADE: Are you in a relationship now?
DAVIS: Yes. I’ve been in a relationship now for six years. He keeps me in line and makes sure I have a good work/life balance.
BLADE: You live together in Manhattan?
DAVIS: Yes, but he’s trying to convince me to move to Italy one day soon. He owns his own line of high end Italian furniture and thinks we should live there.
BLADE: He’s Italian?
DAVIS: No, Steven is Australian, he just loves Italy.