Part of Outsports’ series on our 100 most important moments in gay sports history.
Football, 1985. Former Pitt Panther standout Ed Gallagher lied down atop the Kensico Dam, asked God for forgiveness, and rolled into the open space 100 feet above the ground. Gallagher had recently given into his gay sexual desires for the first time and the guilt was too much to take. But on that day he became the first person to ever survive a suicide attempt at the Kensico Dam. He saw it as a second chance at life, and he made every moment count.
He was now paralyzed from the waist down with limited use of his arms. He would be wheelchair-bound for the rest of his life until he died 20 years later. In that time he became a fierce advocate for disabled rights, creating the organization Alive To Thrive. His efforts resulted in access to dozens of businesses and facilities and a deeper understanding of people with paralysis through his public access TV show, Mister Ed's Corral.
Gallagher was also a fierce advocate for gay acceptance. He knew well the effects that overt and latent homophobia had on gay people, and he focused his efforts on helping kids accept themselves for who they are. Long before 'It Gets Better,' Gallagher was saying just that.
For much of the late '80s and throughout the 1990s, Gallagher was a go-to guy for media appearances. His story was unique, and he could speak to the issues that so many different people faced in their lives. He appeared on The Howard Stern Show, HBO, and in the New York Times thanks to an article by Robert Lipsyte, who talks about Ed at length in his new book, An Accidental Sportswriter. He also spoke to dozens of schools, Fortune 500 companies and law-enforcement agencies including the FBI.
Few people dedicated their lives to improving understanding of gay people more than Gallagher. And I miss him.
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