2009 Outgames Profile of Ray Boyd

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

The 2009 World Outgames just wrapped up in Copenhagen.  Among the international bevy of athletes flocking to the Danish capital was Ray Boyd, a Philadelphia rower (as well as an accomplished swimmer, runner, cyclist, triathlete, surfer) and Fins Aquatics teammate of mine. 

When I first met Ray in early 2008, I was struck by his height (towering over me at about 6’4”) and laid back demeanor (no surprise that he lived on the west coast for years).  I learned of two things we have common from an article published around that time: (1) we both came to challenging sports later in life (at 31 years old, Ray began rowing, and I began swimming); and (2) we both utilized a tough fitness regimen to shed some unwanted pounds.

Ray invited me to Undine Barge Club’s boathouse for one of his last practices before jaunting off to Copenhagen.  I got to spend a little time with him (and Outgames boat mate Brian Todd) on my first journey inside Boathouse Row, having run, bicycled, walked, and driven by it countless times.  I snapped a bunch of pictures, and it’s definitely a better view of the river, rowers, and museum than most other vantage points.

Born and raised in Prospect Park, Ray returned to Philadelphia about ten years ago after stints in Arizona and California.  Yearning for a new outdoor activity, and having taken a learn-to-row class, he went knocking on boathouse doors.  Answering the door to the Vesper Boat Club was Chuck Colgan, who let Ray know there was a place for him with the team.  Ten years later, Ray is captain of the Undine club, a service position where he balances team building with low-key politicking, ever vigilant of the club’s core values and assessing and guiding the club’s direction.

After Ray registered for this year’s (his first) Outgames, Brian, of Los Angeles, invited him to row in a quad along with rowers from Santa Barbara and Germany.  The composite crew that Brian built – the West Hollywood Oars (WHOars) – placed second in the 1000 meter open.  Ray placed third as part of the USA team in the 6km Copenhagen Head of the Harbour Race.  And the WHOars, sans Ray, placed in sub-quad events.

Brian searched for Outgames registrants through the Gay + Lesbian Rowing Federation (GLRF), a nonprofit organization where he serves as executive director.  GLRF has 800 web-based members from 27 countries, including the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom.  GLRF operates as an umbrella for an international gay and lesbian rowing community.

GLRF is not designed to segregate gay and lesbian rowers from straight rowers, according to Brian  Quite the opposite, in fact.  It supports and protects the interests of gay and lesbian rowers within the broader rowing community.  Acceptance of LGBT athletes is growing incrementally, often depending on the sport, the region, and/or the team.  Early on, Ray was told that rowing was too closeted and too conservative.  He was still dating women when he joined Vesper, and a commitment to rowing and the support of his teammates helped him through the often perplexing and sometimes tumultuous coming out process.  Straight teammates even accompanied him to Woody’s when he first started coming out on the gay scene.

According to Brian, GLRF receives emails from young rowers relaying their coming out experiences.  In a world where LGBT rowers are often merely tolerated, younger rowers are increasingly accepted by their teammates.  Prejudice still exists in the rowing world.  Sexuality is not discussed on teams in Germany.  In France, rowers simply do not talk about their non-rowing lives.  Spain is one of the most conservative countries, where LGBT rowers are still reported to be kicked off of their teams for coming out.  Until the climate is ideal for LGBT athletes, the support of organizations like GLRF and events like the Outgames offer the opportunity and support for everyone to compete.

Ever the enthusiast, at the time this column is published Ray should be cycling from the games in Copenagen, Denmark, to Stockholm, Sweden (yes, really).  Then home.  The 2013 Outgames are in Antwerp, Belgium, and next year’s Gay Games are in Cologne, Germany, with, no doubt, lots in between for Ray.

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