Canadian Olympic speedskater Denny Morrison is a great example of a person who was once anti-gay and totally changed once he abandoned prejudice and educated himself. It culminated with Morrison being proudly sponsored by Twisted Element, a gay bar in Calgary.
"I grew up in a small town and had been teased about my sport, being a figure skater, wearing spandex, calling me names and insinuating I was gay," Morrison said in an interview with Jian Ghomeshi of the CBC (listen here; the gay discussion happens at 9:30). "In hindsight, part of that made me prove how not gay I was by just not being nice to gay people. I've learned and grown since then, especially hearing people's stories. ... It came back to me, 'Wow, I've done some not-nice things in my time.' I think I've grown a lot more since then."
Morrison visited Twisted Element two years ago since a teammate was bartending there and he said he was moved by the stories patrons told him. He struck up a friendship with the bar's owner, R.J. Fafard. He cheered on Morrison as he won a silver and bronze medal in Sochi.
"It feels amazing," Fafard said. "It's 100 per cent gay, but we are straight friendly," Fafard said about the bar.
For his part, Morrison, 28, said he is proud to have the bar as a sponsor. "I've lost friends over them becoming gay in my past," he said. "I feel bad about that now. I realize how ridiculous that was. So that's why I think it's neat this gay club took me on."
The sponsorship has had a side benefit of being great for the bar's business. After word got out, Twisted Element has been visited by speedskaters from more than 50 countries when they are in town for a World Cup event.
Morrison has other sponsors but when a Canadian website did a story on the connection with Twisted Element, he was stunned by how much positive reaction it got and how many other stories it spawned. With good reason. It's a feel-good story and a lesson that yesterday's antagonists can become today's allies and friends.
Denny Morrison can be followed on Twitter.