Friday, September 30, 2011

Triathlete 2.0

Published in Compete Magazine, August 2011

Triathlete 2.0

by Jeff Kagan

Groucho Marx once claimed that he could sing, dance, play the piano, and (in an emergency) move it.  For an entertainer it is quite common to demonstrate three distinct talents---four if you count moving a piano as yet another, but for an athlete it is not so common.  Many athletes have multiple abilities, but most focus on a single activity, the one at which they excel or most enjoy.  There is a relatively rare group of athletes who go so far as to compete in two.

Pushing the envelope even further are those athletes whose lives revolve around competing in three different sports.  We could call them tri-athletes, although, by its most primitive definition (sans hyphen), a triathlete is “one who competes in a triathlon,” an event which traditionally hosts competitions in swimming, cycling and running in immediate succession.  While this may seem like insanity to most of us, it is a challenge to the dedicated athletes who push themselves to see how much sweat they can leave on the ball fields, at the ice rinks and in the swimming pools.  Rather than risk upsetting the good people at Webster’s Dictionary, let’s enhance the original word and use the term “triathlete 2.0”.

Triathlete 2.0 (n) [trahy-ath-leet-too-dot-oh]: “one who participates in three sports organizations, not necessarily at the same time or even on the same day, but does so over the course of multiple weeks and months (called ‘seasons’).”  Why train for a single day’s event and have it all end in a few hours? 

Mikey Rickman is a triathlete 2.0.  During the week, he’s a public school teacher and interpreter for the deaf in Boston, but his weekends are another story. On Saturdays and Sundays Rickman plays basketball, softball and volleyball -- with a little time in between for socializing and carbo-loading. He serves as the Commissioner of the Boston Gay Basketball League and plays for the Ashmont Rimshots in the upper division where he ranks 2nd in steals. Rickman owes his years of experience to his parents, as he’s been playing basketball since age 6. “My parents asked me if I wanted to play and gave me the opportunity to say yes or no.  If I did not like the sport after I started, the only rule was to finish out the season so I did not let my team down,” he says. Apparently, he likes basketball so much, he hasn’t let a team down in 23 years.  And the same goes for softball, which he’s been playing for just as long.  He’s currently part of the Beantown Softball League where he plays for the Club Café Crew and also coaches Club Café Good Times. When he’s not playing basketball or softball, Rickman spends his last free remaining hours setting up and spiking the ball in the Cambridge Boston Volleyball League

Being on a field or on a court every weekend for practices or games, Rickman’s schedule is quite rigorous, but he seems to enjoy the pandemonium. “I love meeting new people.  Being involved gives me the opportunity to network and to learn more about the city.  I moved here from Knoxville, Tennessee, not knowing many people, and now I have a place to call home. My teammates are not only my friends in Boston, but they are my family. 

One man’s pandemonium is another man’s peace, according to Daniel Edwards, who plays softball, ice hockey and rugby. His motivation for being a triathlete 2.0 is geared more towards solitude and relaxation from life’s little curve balls. “I enjoy it because it keeps my mind at ease. I could have a stressful day at work and go to a hockey game and forget all about it in that hour or two of skating. It’s one of the only times my mind is free of distractions,” says Edwards, who works in the Computer Crimes Unit for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in Atlanta.

Edwards is lucky enough to have his three sports spread over several days and not just a weekend. He plays “fly half” with the Atlanta Bucks Rugby Club, then he’s usually on the ice once during the week, centering with the Atlanta Jacks, then once again on the weekends.  He plays in a straight softball league, on the Blackburn Predators on Monday nights and then practices with his gay softball team, the Atlanta Menace on Wednesday nights, preparing for Sunday’s game.  He also coaches the Atlanta Rubber Ducks softball team on Saturdays.

As Edwards can testify, participating in sports is the ideal way to distract us from the problems and pressures of everyday life.  The physical workout helps release tension from our bodies, while the mental concentration takes our mind off of everything other than beating our opponents (and in the case of rugby and ice hockey: beating up our opponents). Along with the hard work each athlete puts into the game, the most important aspect of team sports is teamwork: working together for a common goal.  A byproduct of teamwork is camaraderie: the mutual trust and friendship among people who spend a lot of time together.

Rory Ray, a web developer in New York City, knows all about spending a lot of time with his teammates.  Two of his teams have traveled thousands of miles to compete in national and international tournaments. Ray proudly reflects on the camaraderie he shares with the other players, “It’s the reason I play. Being able to have someone right there with me as I go into battle and knowing they'll have my back, no matter what the outcome, is an amazing feeling. In those wonderful moments when everything comes together, and you win an important game as a team, there's no better feeling than being able to share that with them.” 

Ray is a forward for the San Francisco Rock Dogs, an LGBT basketball team, which was featured the 2008 LOGO television series, “Shirts & Skins”. The Rock Dogs have contributed to some notable victories, as they earned gold medals in the 2006 Gay Games in Chicago, and again in the 2010 Gay Games in Cologne, Germany.  Ray’s former flag football team, the Los Angeles Motion, also won the gold medal at the 2006 Gay Games in Chicago and then three years later went on to take the championship at Gay Bowl IX, a national LGBT flag football tournament akin to the NFL’s Superbowl.   On the football field, he’s a wide receiver and free safety, but on the dodgeball court, Ray spends his time with Team Splash and the Big Apple Dodgeball League picking off his opponents one by one.

Even when facing a tough opponent like Rory Ray, it’s camaraderie that keeps the team together. The players develop strong interpersonal relationships, sometimes as close as members of their own families. Perhaps this could be what attracts many gay amateur athletes to organized sports in their adulthood after having had negative experiences in their youth. In some cases, as teens, when other boys took an interest in the opposite sex, gay athletes noticed certain differences in themselves -- differences they were not able to openly discuss due to the homophobic environment of the locker room, whether at school or at home. This created a feeling of isolation and, eventually, a loss of interest. 

As adults, now out of the closet, they no longer need to worry about being rejected because they are different.  They come back to the sports they loved in their youth, with self-confidence and a sense of personal security, looking to get a taste of the friendship and camaraderie that they missed in their youth.

This was certainly the case for Jeffrey James, a Product Manager at Sony Music Entertainment who says that he participates to get redemption from negative experiences he had playing sports in high school.  “Back then, I was a decent athlete, not the best and not the worst, but I wasn't comfortable in my own skin. It was awkward being in the locker room and taking showers with the other guys. Although I tried my best not to stare at anyone, I felt the other guys knew something about me. It was a terrible feeling. Now, on my gay sport teams, I still try not to stare, but I am surrounded by people who are just like me, and I don’t have the same anxiety I had back then. It’s comforting.”

James has been playing softball for twenty years.  He joined the Big Apple Softball League in 2001 and soon met his partner, Ed Sokolowski through the league.  The two have been together for the past nine years. Sokolowski had been playing with the Gotham Volleyball League, and James decided to try it.  He liked it.  Dodgeball came next when the Big Apple Dodgeball League broke onto the New York gay sports scene in the fall of 2007. James jumped on board right away, playing with the Back Breakers, trying to avoid getting hit in the face with any balls.  Trying...  James doesn’t know Rory Ray personally, but he’s seen him in action. “He has a wicked arm. Good thrower. Low and fast,” he says.

Braking Away

Published in Next Magazine, September 16, 2011

Braking Away
by Jeff Kagan

If Chad Woodward had way, he would have spent more time indoors as a child.  He disliked sports, yet his parents thought he’d be better off out of the house and being more active. Woodward says, “I avoided playing sports like I was getting paid for it!  My parents, God love them, enrolled me in every sport under the sun, and I was without question, the worst one on the team every time!”
He discovered his athlete abilities as an adult at which time he started dabbling in track and triathlons. Having never run further than three miles in one session, he optimistically signed up for a marathon.  Although the process was tough, at times unbearable, he lived through it, and he was hooked. “I drank the Kool-Aid! I went from fantastically anti-athletic to completing my first Ironman triathlon in the span of a few years.”

Jeff Adams says he was the least sporty kid around. He too caught the “sports bug” as an adult while playing softball in his company softball league. An avid hockey fan, he decided to give it a whirl and in the fall of 2001, and he now plays with the NYC Gay Hockey Association on two different teams, the Tigers and the Boxers.

Unlike Woodward and Adams, Mason Scherzer spent plenty of time outdoors as a child. His mother was a national level softball player which may have rubbed off on him. He also played tennis, and in college he progressed to volleyball.  When it came to sports, he was like the Energizer Bunny.  He’s been playing with Big Apple Softball for the past 14 years, and he’s also made some passes with the NY Gay Football League.

Each of these men has one thing in common – their desire to use their love of sports to help make a difference. All three are participating in this weekend’s Braking The Cycle AIDS Ride.  Last year, this 285-mile bicycle ride from Boston to New York will raised over $300,000 to support HIV/AIDS services offered by the NYC Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Transgender Center. 

Why do they do it? Scherzer considers himself to be extraordinarily lucky. “For my health, for my family that didn't freak out about the gay thing, and for my friends and support network.  I thought that I owed it to karma that as long as I could do something to try and help out others who weren't so lucky that I should do so. It's really a gift now that I give myself each year, this ride”, he says.

Woodward was inspired by a man in a promotional video about the ride. He says, “There was an interview with a man who told his story about being so close to dying, there was little hope left.  Through actions taken by the Center, he lived.  That was several years before said interview.  I met him that year on the ride and he told me his story, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  I have never been so moved and touched as I was in that moment.  The sincerity of his intention and the courage of his story were things of storybooks to me.  To this day, I count that single discussion as one of the most influential moments of my life.”

Find out more about Braking The Cycle at


Wetness: Congratulations to Team New York Aquatics swimmers (amongst others) who swam 4-miles, from Sayville to The Pines, at the 3rd Annual Stonewall Foundation Swim on Saturday, August 13th raising over $150K for the Stonewall Community Foundation.

Dodginess: Big Apple Dodgeball had its first ever Summer Co-Ed Charity tournament in August raising $2250 with team "Lesbian Swan" swooping in to take the crown. The tournament was co-sponsored by Gym Bar and Rockbar and all proceeds of the tourney will go to the GLSEN Sports Project. 

Bikiness: He likes the nickname Patch, but Patrick Chin-Hong's middle name might as well be "perseverance," after he completed Paris-Brest-Paris, a 1200 km (745 mi.) bike tour from France's capital city to the coast of Brittany, in under 90 hours.  Patrick made quick stops, to eat and to sleep on cafeteria countertops and in roadside ditches, never for more than an hour, joining about 5,000 spandex-clad, sleep-deprived zombies.

Runniness: Frontrunners New York’s Men's masters team placed 5th of 28 teams in NYRR's Team Championships on August 6 in one of the most competitive team races of the year.  Congratulations to the men who scored for the team: Chris Stoia, Patrick Guilfoyle, Matt Anderson, Marty McElhiney, and Mike Grzelecki!

Softness: Congratulations to the NYC Fusion and NYC Swingers on their 1st and 2nd place finishes, respectively, in the Big Apple Softball’s Playing For Life 8 Tournament D Division.  Honorable mention to the Long Island LIPSA All-Stars for 3rd place in the C Division.   Learn more about the tournament at

Up Over The Net

Published in Next Magazine, July 15, 2011

Up Over The Net
by Jeff Kagan

Billy Bowden is happy.  The 52-year old insurance and investment planner has found satisfaction in his life – providing yet another example that it does get better. Looking back through years, Bowden remembers a time when his life was not so great. In his junior year of high school, he began to notice that he was different than his classmates.  And sadly, the signals that he was getting from his peers, and from his family, all told him that there was something wrong with him. He felt alone, isolated and afraid.  He was gay and at 16 he didn’t know to face that fact.  “I would drink myself blind to deal with the pain,” says Bowden, “and the drinking lead to cocaine, which lead to more drinking, and then more drugs.”  This cycle continued for almost 20 years as his only way to cope.

On his 35th birthday, Bowden did some soul searching. He knew he was gay, but he had never said it out loud. He was petrified, thinking his family would reject him, his friends would leave him and his world would come to a sudden end.  He realized that he needed help and he was now determined to find a solution the problem that had tormented him for more than half of his life.  Bowden went through the yellow-pages and chose a psychiatrist on Park Avenue, assuming that the posh address might somehow equate to competency.

He took a breath and remembered a commitment he made to himself to solve his problem.  “I unzipped my chest and put my heart on his desk and I just told him I think I’m gay.”  That was the first time Bowden had said those two words out loud: “I’m gay.”  The psychiatrist told him that he was not gay, but rather that he was going through a phase.  Bowden asked why he would cry while praying for forgiveness in church. “You go to church??” asked the psychiatrist, “Oh, then you do have a problem.” He left the psychiatrist’s office and when he got out to the sidewalk, he started laughing so hard tears rolled down his face.  He hadn’t laughed in months.  It felt good. Luckily, he realized that this doctor wasn’t going to help him, and he kept searching until he found a gay psychiatrist who he could relate to better.

Bowden worked with the new doctor on dealing with the realization that he was gay, but there was still something eating away at him. One cold February afternoon, he ran out of his office and took off to Battery Park to call his psychiatrist on the pay phone (this was before cell phones were popular).  “What the fuck is wrong with me!!!?” he screamed through the phone. He felt completely overwhelmed.  As a result, he started drinking again. He went out six nights in a row, ending up in the hospital from dehydration.  The next morning, on Ash Wednesday, he made the decision to stop drinking for 40 days. He challenged himself to see if he could do it. He got through Easter and set a new goal for himself: to get to Memorial Day. And then the Fourth of July and so on.  And now, 16 years later, and he’s still sober.  He accepts himself for who he is and he loves himself. Billy Bowden is happy.

Over the next two years in his sobriety, Bowden’s life turned around completely.  He found a new job and moved into the Manhattan.  He wanted to make some new friends in the city so he picked up Next Magazine and went through the sports teams listings.  There he found the Gotham Volleyball League.  “Back in college, the quickest way to make friends was to join a sports team.  You’d instantly have whole new group of friends!” And the closet friends in his life are friends he met through the league.

Bowden currently serves on the Board of Directors for Gotham as Manager of Team Power Program which works with players to improve their volleyball skills.  He also put together this weekend’s Gotham Fire Island Tournament Party, which will be held at The Deck in the Pines this Saturday night.  The 22nd annual Gotham Fire Island Tournament hosts 250 volleyballers playing in the sand on the beach parallel to the Meat Rack.  Set and Spiked!  More at


Fun, Pride, Run: Front Runners New York congratulates Natalie Johnston and Brad Gayman, winners of the 2011 Steve Gerben Awards for the being the first female and male FRNY members to finish the Pride Run, which was held on June 25.  Additionally, Michelle Mazzara and Christopher Stoia were the fastest Masters runners in the Pride Run who received the 2011 Mickey Zacuto Awards. More info at

Challenged in Chelsea:
The NYC Gay Hockey Association held their 11th Annual Chelsea Challenge on June 17-19 at Sky Rink. The tournament hosted three divisions.  Championship teams: The Daywalkers (Developmental Division); the Chicago Thrust (Recreational B); and the New York Lions (Recreational A).  Congratulations to Lions Captain, Vinny Cericola on earning his 950th career point with the NYC Gay Hockey Association.  Cericola, a straight ally, has been a true friend and respected leader in the organization since 2002. More info at

Balling, not Bawling: Congratulations to Captains Michael Ashburn and Wilfred Aguila, respectively, on their teams taking the Spring 2011 NYC Gay Basketball League A & B Division Championships. Aguila’s Splash Bar (B) team took down the Boxers 42-22.  Ashburn’s Eagle Bar team soared high over Gym Bar, pulling out a win 53-48. More info at

P--That stands for Pool: The New York Gay Pool League’s $800 Summer 9-ball Tournament has “racked-up” its regular season. The 1st place Stonewall Riots are going into the finals with the 2nd place Boxers, not to mention the Stonewall Stars and Boxers Briefs right behind them. Who will snatch up that cash? More at

A Singlet Man

Published in Next Magazine, August 19, 2011

A Singlet Man
By Jeff Kagan

Mike Faraci is no ordinary man.  He’s something of a renaissance man with abilities and interests ranging from wrestling to sewing -- from kickboxing to cooking -- and from rock climbing to just plain rock ‘n rolling with his band, the aptly named “Mike Faraci Band” where he can be spotted every few months at the Indian Road Café in Inwood.  

Besides music, the one interest Faraci is most passionate about wrestling.  His grandfather was a boxer, so he feels that there’s something in his bloodline that ties into the similarities of the two sports. However, as a gay athlete, for Faraci, participating in an exceptionally physical sport isn’t as much about breaking stereotypes as it is embracing them (pun intended). Faraci says, “It’s more about redefining what the stereotypes are.  Some people are gay first, and everything else later.  I tell people that gay is only one of my talents.”

Growing up on Long Island, the most popular recreational activity was bowling.  Faraci’s family wasn’t quite so sports-minded. “My father never watched football or baseball unless my grandfather was over -- or if the World Series was on. Otherwise, we weren’t watching sports in my house”, he says.  And playing sports was another story. “I used to wrestle with my father when I was very little and I loved it. But when I was older, and all of the other kids were out playing, I had asthma and I wasn’t really encouraged to join in any ‘reindeer games’.”  He would participate from time to time but never fully enjoyed the experience.

When Faraci was 18, his father learned through another family member that his son was gay. Being a strict Catholic who had strong views on homosexuality, his father had a difficult time dealing with this.  The two did not speak for a week.  Then his father sat him down to talk about it.  Faraci’s father said, “There are people in this world who choose to be gay, and that’s a sin. But you… you were different from the time you were a little boy, and I don’t think you chose it.” 

This was a sigh of relief for Faraci, that his father was to be able to make peace with this issue.  Although he disagreed with his dad’s opinion that it is a choice for some, he was relieved his father recognized early on that his son was a little different.  He says, “I got the sense that he loved me anyway, and after that it wasn’t going to be an issue.  Ever since then we’ve had a great relationship.”

Faraci has been wrestling for about sixteen years.  He started during his senior year at college. He was drawn to wrestling for its individualistic element. “What I always liked about it is that there’s no team.  I was not a great athlete as a kid and the other kids would yell at me when I missed the shot or didn’t catch the ball.  With wrestling, there’s no one yelling at me.”  Without having to deal with the scrutiny of the other team members Faraci enjoyed wrestling and he excelled. A high point was when competed in the Amsterdam Gay Games in 1998.  As wrestling always came naturally to him, the greater challenge was trying to lose the 6 1/4 lbs. necessary to compete in the class he wanted.  Sticking with a low fat diet, he shed the unwanted weight and went for the gold.  And he got it.

Faraci currently wrestles and coaches with the Metro Wrestling. More at


Jog’em: Front Runners New York attended the 2011 North American Outgames in Vancouver, BC in July, bringing home more than 80 medals in dozens of track and field events, as well as the Vancouver 10K Pride Run. The team was comprised of 23 Front Runners, spanning from open competition through the 70+ age group. Race organizers and competitors alike noted the sportsmanship and enthusiasm FRNY brought to the Outgames.  More at

Kick ‘em: Congratulations to the New York Ramblers on taking the gold medal in a 3-2 game against Boston Striker (Division Two) of the International Gay & Lesbian Football Association North American Cup in Vancouver, BC, Canada.  Props go to Larry Buenafe, David Laski, David McKenzie, Eric Roberts, Charlie Welch and Jared Snavely on a well played tournament. More at

Rack ‘em: The New York Gay Pool League wrapped up its Summer 9-Ball Tournament Series, with the Amsterdam Poolboyz taking home the top prize of bragging rights and a $400 prize. Boxers came in 2nd, winning $200 and the Stonewall Riots and Stonewall Stars each winning $100 for 3rd & 4th Places.  Their 8-ball season is starting soon. More at

Puck’em: The NYC Gay Hockey Association’s freshman team The Boxers were slaughtered by the Wild Turkeys 8-1 on July 29th, which happened to fall on the organization’s 12th anniversary.  The Boxers made up for their loss a day later by shutting out the Tsunami, 6-0. Congratulations on the NYCGHA on 12 years of gay hockey! More at

Slashing Homophobia

Published in Next Magazine, June 17, 2011

Slashing Homophobia
by Jeff Kagan

Homophobia in sports has been front row and center in recent weeks causing restlessness amongst gay sports fans over incidents ranging from professional basketball players Kobe Bryant and Joakim Noah caught on camera using the “f-word” (“faggot”) to an distasteful statement by ice hockey agent Todd Reynolds about gay marriage after New York Rangers winger Sean Avery released a public service announcement in support of it.  The National Basketball Association (NBA) has dealt with each episode by fining the two players $100,000 and $50,000 respectively. The National Hockey League (NHL), however, made no statements regarding Reynolds’ comments, nor one supporting Sean Avery’s public service announcement.  What are they waiting for?

While the NHL won’t take a public stand against homophobia, the GForce Hockey team will. GForce is a top-level ice hockey club that is working to create a sports environment where athletes and coaches are judged solely on the strength of their talents, effort and potential regardless of their sexual orientation. 

Dave Farber, an active member of GForce, has been one of the group’s advocates for the past few years. “We've had some great panel discussions. Our most recent forum was for the College Hockey Coaches Conference in Naples, Florida where I was given the opportunity to talk to coaches from some of the highest-ranked college teams and really impress upon them how they can make a difference by actively challenging the actual or perceived anti-gay culture in collegiate athletics.”  These discussions help breakdown stereotypes and address how to deal with homophobia, and may someday pave the way for professional gay athletes in the “big four” (baseball, football, basketball & hockey) to come out while still actively contributing to their respective sports.

Farber recalls being apprehensive about coming out while attending the University of Pennsylvania.  He envisioned the worst, assuming he would be rejected and have to give up the one thing that meant everything to him: playing hockey.  He soon discovered that his fear was misguided as his teammates fully supported him, eventually naming Farber team captain, a thrill he considers to be one of the greatest in his life.

He says, “I can empathize with those players who fear losing the ability to continue doing what they've loved doing since childhood. The dream is to make it to the big leagues, and you don't want to jeopardize that. Once players realize they can be themselves and also have that dream, we'll see some more pro athletes come out.”

The groundwork is being laid right now with professional athletes like Sean Avery and Ben Cohen, a straight professional rugby player, standing up against homophobia.  Other athletes and coaches at all levels are acknowledging that the culture in professional sports is becoming more accepting. The recent coming out by Phoenix Suns President and CEO Rick Welts is another positive accomplishment, which will create a more welcoming environment for closeted athletes to take those few frightening steps out of the closet. 
“If a professional athlete were to come out on a national stage, people would question previously held notions of what LGBT folks are really like and it would truly shatter some unfounded and ridiculous stereotypes,” Farber says.

This weekend, you can see Dave Farber in action as he skates with the New York Lions in the Chelsea Challenge, an Annual LGBT Ice Hockey Tournament now in its 11th year. The tournament will host twelve teams from the United States and Canada. The games are FREE to spectators. 

More at and

June Quickies

Fast & (snap!) Fabulous: Four of the Fast and Fabulous Cycling Club made it through rain, grit and multiple flat tires, from Penn Station in Manhattan to Montauk on Long Island, in the 145-mile Montauk Century, sponsored by the Five Boro Bike Club. Congratulations to Bob Nelson, Chad Woodard, Patrick Chin-Hong and Erica Jacobs!

Run For It!: Congratulations to two Front Runners New York ultra relay teams at the new relay race, Reach the Beach: Massachusetts on May 20th-21st. Running 201.7 miles from Wachusett to Westport, the two 6-member FRNY teams placed 1st and 2nd in the Ultra Division, and 2nd and 3rd overall (out of 150 teams)! Hats off to “A Case of the Runners” and “Ultra Front Runners NY”!

I Stand Up With Ben Cohen!: 
On May 22nd, the merry men of Gotham Knights Rugby Football Club teamed up with British World Cup Champion Ben Cohen at Boxers NYC to raise over $13,000 for Ben Cohen Stand Up Coalition, the Gay Straight Lesbian Education Network, and Gotham RFC. Other notable guests of the night include dashing MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts, New York State Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell, and wrestler/ founder Hudson Taylor who all came out to support Ben's campaign against bullying.

Duck, Dodgers!: After the most competitive dodgeball season Big Apple Dodgeball has ever seen, RF Lounge narrowly finished the season in first place for Spring 2011. Although after ending in 5th place for the season, Therapy came out of nowhere and clobbered the competition in the tournament and taking home the gold for the first time in BAD! history. With Vinny Maniscalo's powerful arm and Jose Aquino's nimble dodging abilities, Therapy finished the season strong and celebrated at Splash.

Passing of a Legend: Chuck Dima, the “Godfather” of gay softball passed away on May 23, 2011 at 81. Dima was the founder of the Big Apple Softball League which eventually spawned several other LGBT sports organizations.  Learn more about Chuck Dima and his contribution to the LGBT community at