Loving Men at Denver PrideFest: From Indiana to Colorado

‘We Love Men’. I stood in front of a beautifully made sign that said just that for much of my time at the Denver PrideFest, and handed out ‘I Love Men’ buttons to passersby.  Such a phrase might not be out of place for a man to say at an event like PrideFest, which has its roots as a celebration of gay culture. I may not be gay, but as a Men’s Rights Advocate (MRA), I do care deeply about love for men.

Really neat buttons Rocky Mountain MRA made for Denver PrideFest.

Really neat buttons Rocky Mountain MRA made for Denver PrideFest.

It has always been a no brainer for me to travel sometimes great distances to meet other people who care about men's issues like I do. MRAs and men’s issues events are few and far between, and I have had the privilege of being able to afford to the time and money to travel to a number of men’s issues conferences, where I have got to meet many wonderful people in the men’s movement who I have come to admire. I have also had the privilege of hosting a screening where I live in Indiana, of ‘The Red Pill’, the first-ever documentary made about the men’s rights movement.

Holly and Aaron Mello.

Holly and Aaron Mello.

It was the hosting of this film that compelled me to contact Aaron Mello, the co-founder of Rocky Mountain MRA. I hosted the screening through Tugg, which meant that I needed to get a large number people to reserve tickets at least a week in advance of the screening for it to go ahead. It turned out to be a very difficult process, as I am not a great speaker and hadn’t talked about men’s issues with many of my friends very much before that. That men’s rights is a controversial subject just made it that much harder, and having to promote the screening forced me to talk to my friends and many strangers about men’s issues. I definitely got into many uncomfortable interactions, but I also never felt more alive than when I was sharing with people about why men deserve compassion. Aaron hosted his own Tugg screening of ‘The Red Pill’ in Denver, and he managed to get his screening sold-out. I contacted him for advice, and his moral support was an important part of what helped me get through that very trying process. The screening was a success and is the most meaningful experience I’ve had to date.

Beautifully made sign describing the group.

Beautifully made sign describing the group.

When I heard that Aaron Mello and Bryan Day started Rocky Mountain MRA as a result of the very successful screening in Denver, I thought that was the most exciting news I’ve heard all year! For years I had yearned to have a local men’s issues group to participate in, and more recently I have begun dreaming of creating one where I live. That Rocky Mountain MRA started as a group of people who met at a screening of ‘The Red Pill’ gave me hope that something like this can be done. This is a Colorado-based, grass-roots organization dedicated to positive change for men and boys – isn’t it wonderful that such a group exists?

Kat working on the finishing touches on the booth.

Kat working on the finishing touches on the booth.

I had been following the group on Facebook, and it was so thrilling to see people being able to get together in real life to support each other in their advocacy for compassion for men. I then learned that the group was going to have a booth at the Denver PrideFest! The group has been preparing this event for many months raising funds, writing material for pamphlets, designing banners, making buttons, weekly planning meetings and even training sessions for people who signed up to man the booth. They put in an incredible amount of work to make this public debut of theirs a success. I wanted to not only give them my support, but also learn what I can from them, and so I jumped at the opportunity to fly out to Denver to see their booth!

Co-founders of Rocky Mountain MRA, Aaron and Bryan.

Co-founders of Rocky Mountain MRA, Aaron and Bryan.

On Friday, June 16, I drove from Lafayette to Indianapolis and got a flight out from there to Denver. After a sushi dinner and a good night’s sleep in a hostel near the Civic Center Park, I walked over to the location of the booth at 7 am the next day for the big event. It was there that I finally met Aaron and the other members of Rocky Mountain MRA. This is a group that is genuine in their warmth and they made me feel very welcome. There I helped them to set up the booth, and I was awed by everything they had designed and made. It was all incredibly informative, eye-catching and had a positive message. They made a very detailed information board with various men’s issues facts and statistics, as well as a very funny FAQ section about the misconceptions of the men’s movement. They also made a compelling sign that said ‘Every 20 minutes a man commits suicide’, and also the aforementioned heartwarming ‘We Love Men’ sign. It was great to hang out and talk with them about why we care about men’s issues and I proudly wore the really cool buttons they made. As stepped out to see what the booth looked like as it was done, I became convinced that the booth was going to make a big splash at Denver PrideFest.

Drawing in loads of interest!

Drawing in loads of interest!

As the festival got going I joined the group handing out buttons and pamphlets to passersby, talking to people about men’s issues and directed them to the booth for more information. It was incredible to see what a positive reception to the booth the group had, with a lot of people showing genuine interest, signing up and thanking the group for doing this. The majority of people who showed interest in the booth were women, which was not that surprising, because who loves men more than women? I was also so excited to be reaching out to others about men’s issues with a supportive group of people with me doing the exact same thing. That was a new experience for me, and I think it is so exciting to live in a time where more and more people can get together and talk openly about these issues.

Matthew and Aaron behind the booth.

Matthew and Aaron behind the booth.

The second day of the festival was Father’s Day, and I spent a lot of it handing out ‘Super Dad’ buttons along with the pamphlets, and wishing ‘Happy Father’s Day!’ to people walking by the booth who looked like they might be fathers. There was just as much interest from the festival attendees as the day before, with many having supportive things to say to the group. As a group we also got to hear stories from people who had friends who committed suicide and were victims of domestic violence, and we were amazed at the number of people who were asking for resources for help in these areas, which just goes to show the need for and importance of groups like this one.

The buttons were a big hit!

The buttons were a big hit!

We did receive a few negative responses from a small number of people, but those were far eclipsed by the amount of respectful conversations and encouraging exchanges we had with most attendees who came by. When there were some disruptive detractors, Denver PrideFest Security were incredibly helpful in resolving the situation quickly and civilly. Our neighbors in the booth next to us, the ‘Panther Performance Auto Group’, were also very supportive of us in that regard, and stood by us throughout everything we experienced during the festival. The ‘Panther Performance Auto Group’ is a Denver-based automotive repair center that proudly serves the LGBTQ community, and they are a great group of people, so check them out if you need car work done! You can find them after July 1st at 3011 W 49th Denver CO (facebook.com/pantherperformanceauto).

The Rocky Mountain MRA team.

The Rocky Mountain MRA team.

Although I only signed-up to man the booth for a couple of hours each day, I ended up spending most of my time in Denver at the booth – I just couldn’t get enough of hanging out with the group and doing what MRAs always dream of doing! By the end, the group had several pages full of people who signed up for the mailing list, and hundreds of buttons and pamphlets were handed out to the festival attendees. It was so special to see such a dedicated, compassionate and courageous group of people make such an incredible success of their public debut at Denver PrideFest 2017. I had such a great time with them and hope to come out to see them again. The formation and success of groups like Rocky Mountain MRA are a big step forward for the men’s rights movement in bringing more of what we care about into the world: Love for Men.

Craig and I stationed in front of the 'We Love Men' sign.

Craig and I stationed in front of the 'We Love Men' sign.