With an estimated crowd of 30,000, the Utah Pride Festival is gaining notoriety in the region and around the nation as a burgeoning queer-themed event. This year’s parade, which will be held Sunday, June 2, will feature soccer player David Testo as grand marshal.
Testo played professional soccer for more than 10 years and was the first professional soccer player in North America to publicly announce he is gay in 2011. He’s also the first gay man to be elected to the U.S. Soccer Athletic Council. He has championed other philanthropic endeavors and is an active member of the You Can Play campaign, which assists gay people coming out in sports teams and clubs around the nation.
“Coming out has been amazing and the last two years have been life changing,” Testo said. “Before I came out, I was living this double life which was so difficult. I’m so happy to be where I am today.”
While more sports figures are coming out, including NBA player Jason Collins, there isn’t much of an environment for gay athletes in professional sports, Testo said. Before coming out publicly, he spoke with the management of Montreal Impact, who discouraged him from being open about his sexuality. The team owners and managers were concerned that the sexual orientation would take forefront and distract from play, he said. Just one month after being released from his team, Testo announced on Nov. 10, 2011, in a Radio Canada interview, that he is gay. The next summer, he attended his first Pride festival as grand marshal of Montreal Pride.
“I love my city. It is such an amazing place. You can walk around Montreal holding your boyfriend’s hand and not have to worry about a thing,” Testo said.
Forming alliances with straight athletes and groups is the fastest way to create welcoming spaces for gay people in sports organizations, Testo said. Without the alliances, gay athletes will have no community, and progress will remain stagnant, he said.
Testo participates in the You Can Play campaign which provides counseling and help to teams with openly gay players. By building a support network, it helps foster an environment of acceptance and a celebration of diversity that will propagate through other teams, Testo said. He is also a public speaker and gives presentations to school children about gay people and gay students.
“I’m very excited to be a part of Utah Pride. It will be my second-ever Pride and I am really looking forward to visiting. I’ve been to Utah before to play, but I’ve never had the chance to see the city or get to know people. I am so flattered to be chosen as the grand marshal, and I’m excited that I get to be a part of the festival,” Testo said. “I think Utah is so unique and it feels like there’s a lot of attention on Salt Lake City as far as the gay-rights and marriage-equality battles go.”
Testo will lead the Pride Parade through Salt Lake City on June 2 and will be a part of the program for the Grand Marshal Reception on May 30. For more information and tickets, go to utahpridefestival.org.