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National

In their own words: USTA volunteers on Pride Month

June 28, 2021

As we celebrate Pride Month during June, the USTA also celebrates volunteers in the LGBTQ+ community whose dedication to the sport helps to keep our game growing strong. It would be difficult to recognize every LGBTQ+ volunteer leader here—among the more than 350 national volunteers from all 17 USTA sections. But we’re thrilled to highlight three whose contributions, influence and enthusiasm continue to push this organization and this sport forward.

David Killian

I grew up in Pottsville, Pa., in the 1970s—and being out as gay was not something one did. Tennis, though, was the one salvation I had during my teenage years to help me get through.

 

I went to college at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science (now the University of the Sciences), where I played on the tennis team. During this time, I started my volunteering at both the Philadelphia Pro Indoor and The Virginia Slims of Philadelphia, working mostly in transportation, and for the men’s event I ended up being the Volunteer Coordinator. Still, though, I did not come out—it just was not the right time. 

 

Then, after moving to Charleston, S.C., in 1995, I came out to my family and friends. It was a liberating experience. I could now be myself. Coming out as LGBTQ+ is a different story for everyone. Luckily, I had very supportive parents and my sexuality was never an issue. There are others, though, who have a parental reaction very different than mine.

 

During my time in Charleston, the Family Circle Cup (now Volvo Car Open) relocated from Hilton Head. I sent my resume and was quickly contacted by the tournament. I was the volunteer coordinator for the remaining three years I was in Charleston.

Moving back to Philadelphia, where I currently live, I joined the Philadelphia Liberty Tennis Association, the local LGBTQ+ tennis CTA, in 2008 and went on the board of directors in 2009, as Vice President for one year, and then President for two years. I started the Philadelphia Open, a GLTA event held since 2012, which brings  about 100 players from all over the nation to Philadelphia each July, and I’m still the Tournament Director for that event.

 

I’ve also been on the board of directors of The Gay Games as Officer of Site Selection since 2012, responsible for overseeing the selection of Paris in 2018, Hong Kong for 2022, and the ongoing site selection process for 2026. The Gay Games are the largest global sporting event open to all. I feel extremely proud of the work I’ve done for the LGBTQ+ community to empower through sport.

 

Pride is something very important in the LGBTQ+ community. Pride Month started in NYC, home of the US Open, during the Stonewall Riots in 1969. There were also demonstrations in Philadelphia by Carpenter’s Hall, the birthplace of the nation. The courageous actions and events of generations before have allowed me to live my life open and proud. No one should have to hide who they are in order to be happy and successful in life.

 

These actions have allowed me to run a successful LGBTQ+ tennis tournament in Philadelphia, which give players a safe haven to play without judgement. And, thankfully, the USTA Middle States and USTA National have been 100 percent supportive since the very beginning.

 

And now my volunteer work is focusing back on my true passion—tennis. I’m extremely happy that the USTA developed the “Diversity Immersion for Volunteer Engagement” (DIVE) program, of which I was a part in 2019-20. DIVE is designed to recruit and engage volunteers and future volunteer leadership from more diverse backgrounds at all levels of the USTA. I’d like to bring my experiences in LGBTQ+ sport to help the USTA increase diversity throughout all aspects of the organization. As a member of the National Pro Circuit Committee, I would also like to utilize my tennis tournament knowledge to help the USTA continually improve tournaments for players and organizers throughout the country.

 

My experience with the USTA has been extremely rewarding. It’s appropriate that during Pride Month, I can state that I’m very proud of my work in tennis, sports and the LGBTQ+ community—and I’m very proud that the USTA continues to accept and lift up the LGTBQ+ community.


Ashley Massengale

I grew up playing tennis in New Orleans and throughout the South. I went on to play two years of varsity tennis at Yale University before taking a long hiatus from the sport. When I moved to Atlanta in 2004, a co-worker got wind of my tennis background and convinced me to join her USTA team. I knew I still loved watching tennis, but I wasn’t sure if I loved playing it anymore. I said yes anyway, and it turns out, I do still love playing tennis, more than ever before! 

 

Shortly thereafter, I started volunteering, wanting to get involved in the tennis community and give back to the sport that has given so much to me. I’ve been volunteering with USTA for 16 years, serving as president of USTA Atlanta and then USTA Georgia, and now as a member of the USTA Southern Board. I’ve served on the board of my local NJTL and been on various committees at all levels over the years. I currently serve on the USTA Adult League Committee because as a player and captain I’m particularly passionate about adult league tennis!

 

June is one of my favorite months of the year, partly because my birthday is in June, but also because I get a lot of joy in watching Pride Month celebrations.

 

While this month is about honoring the history and growth of rights for the LGBTQ+ community, it’s also about celebrating ourselves and each other in a colorful and bold way. What other group has as much fun celebrating itself? As the rainbow symbolizes, there is so much diversity within this community itself and to me Pride Month is about being proud of whoever you are and accepting others as they are. I’ve watched support for the community and for Pride Month grow over recent years, and I appreciate that USTA is taking the time to celebrate with us. 

I’ve never thought my or anyone’s sexual identity was the first or even 10th most important thing about them, and it’s not something evident just by looking at someone. I’m a mom, a wife, a tennis fan, a lawyer, a daughter, a friend and a volunteer of my time, and those things seem much more important to me to portray to others. But as I’ve grown in my visibility as a volunteer in the USTA organization over the years, I’ve increasingly felt it was important to be communicative about being gay—to normalize the LGBTQ+ community for those who perhaps don’t have as much exposure in their daily lives and to show members of the community that there is a place for us within the USTA. 

 

I love this sport and I love the opportunities that USTA has given me—to play, but also to make long-lasting friendships with teammates, opponents and other volunteers. I hope to continue to give back through the USTA for years to come!


Michael Myers

I started playing tennis in my senior year at Giles High School in Virginia. I moved to Michigan (where I live currently, in Howell) after college and joined my first USTA League team in 1992—a 3.5-league out of Franklin Athletic Club. In the late 1990s, I moved up to 4.0 league play, and I’ve since played in numerous leagues (Men’s, Mixed, Combo).

 

I’ve been an active volunteer with the USTA for a number of years. Currently, at the national level, I’m a member of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee, and on a Player Participants Subcommittee. For the USTA Midwest, I’m also a member of the section’s Diversity Committee. And at the District level, I’m the treasurer for the Southeastern Michigan Tennis Association Board of Directors and chair of the Finance Committee. I’ve previously served as a member of the national Awards Committee and at the Section level, on the Volunteer, Recruitment, Development and Leadership Committee and the Adult Competition Committee.

 

Outside of the USTA, I volunteer for the Federation of Gay Games (FGG), which is a multi-sport and cultural event that happens every four years. I’ve been the Tennis Tournament Director for the last four Gay Games (Chicago 2006, Cologne 2010, Cleveland 2014 and Paris 2018) and I’m currently working with Hong Kong for 2022. It’s a six-day event with men’s, women’s and mixed divisions by age and skill level. The number of players has ranged from 500 to 800 for the event.

Additionally, I’ve been on the board for the GLTA (Gay/Lesbian Tennis Association) and have been involved in running the Motor City Tennis Classic annually in Detroit. In volunteering for the USTA, FGG and the GLTA, I have made friends all over the world. I could go anywhere and find someone to play with.  Tennis has allowed me to develop friendships with individuals I may have never been able to meet. 

 

My personal goals have always been to make tennis available for all individuals and to provide them with the best experience they could possibly have. I love organizing tournaments and helping whenever and wherever I can.

 

Pride Month is a celebration of diversity—all diversity. Pride Month is a way that the LGBTQ+ community shows how strong and supportive our community is to each other. I want everyone to know that Pride Month is not just about us being LGBTQ+, but also about allowing the world to know how much we are like everyone else. We want to be accepted for ourselves and the work we do. Pride Month allows us to accomplish this.

 

I've never hidden being gay. I’ve always been myself, whether I was at work or on a tennis court. In being true to myself, I have changed people minds on LGBTQ+ individuals. It’s a slow process, but one that will make a difference.

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  • At the 2022 Gay Games, slated for Hong Kong in November, all are welcome to compete—regardless of skill level or sexual orientation. The 11th edition of the event will continue the Federation of Gay Games’ mission to promote equality, diversity and inclusion through sport. Read More

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